Utah lawmakers report threats over immigration law

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 15 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — State law enforcement officials are investigating possible death threats against two Utah state lawmakers backing bills that would fight illegal immigration.

The two-page letter, which also was sent to media outlets and Hispanic activists and first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, includes images of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara and an AK-47.

It opens by calling for a confrontation with the "racist state of Utah" that is based on a "dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing, and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine-gun."

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, told The Associated Press he received the threatening letter through his legislative e-mail account Sunday. He is the sponsor of a bill that would require law enforcement to check the status of anyone stopped for a class A misdemeanor or a felony and turn over illegal immigrants to federal officials.

Orem said the letter made him worry about the safety of his family because his car was also vandalized twice in the past week at his home.

Even if the letter writer does not take action, Sandstrom said he is worried that others will take the letter literally.

"I'm worried about the nut case who sees this as a call to arms and decides to go down in a blaze of glory," Sandstrom said.

The letter writer claims to represent a group called the United Front for Defense of Immigrants. The director of the Chicago-based group, Carlos Arango, said the letter did not come from anyone connected to UFDI and is counter to the group's mission.

The group advocates for the rights of immigrants and immigration reform, but in a civil manner, Arango said. "This is probably from somebody trying to discredit our organization."

The letter said Utah is waging an "anti-immigrants war" that lacks morals, tears families apart and takes away jobs. It was signed by a person named "Cerebro Brillante," which means "brilliant brain" in Spanish.

The sender's e-mail account and a Facebook profile for a Utah-based Cerebro Brillante were blocked Tuesday. A person using that name has also posted comments similar to what was written in the letter on the websites of Utah media outlets.

Cpl. Todd Johnson with the Utah Department of Public Safety said the agency is taking the threats "very seriously." He wouldn't comment on additional security plans for the representatives.

"It is under investigation," Johnson said. "The DPS has the authority to take whatever actions are necessary in cases like this."

Sandstrom said he has received many "hateful" letters and e-mails. There have also been some concerning incidents at his home in the past few weeks, such as people knocking on his door late at night, but nothing that prompted him to alert police.

Republican Rep. Chris Herrod of Provo says he also received the e-mail. Herrod is sponsoring a bill that would punish employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Herrod said he has not experienced additional threats or vandalism.

"I've been called a racist, a fascist, a McCartheyist. This is just the next step," Herrod said.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company