Republican congressional candidate John Jacob, who advocates cracking down on illegal immigration, is being accused of hiring undocumented workers himself.

Jacob called the accusations raised by Latino community advocate Tony Yapias and Eagle Mountain City councilman David Lifferth a "flat-out lie."

Both Lifferth and Yapias support Jacob's opponent, U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, who backs Bush's immigration plan, and is the target of anti-illegal immigration groups leading up to the June 27 primary.

Jacob's campaign site says he'll promote legislation to secure the borders and to "process illegal immigrants for return to their country of origin."

Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, said in an e-mail to roughly 1,000 people on his list Wednesday, "It appears Mr. Jacob did in fact employ 'illegals' to work at his house as groundskeeper and housekeeping."

Yapias told the Deseret Morning News that it was reported to him that Jacob paid the employees, Oscar and Marta Silva, in cash. Yapias said he understood Marta was in the country illegally and Oscar had a student visa with no work eligibility. The Silvas could not be reached for comment.

Cannon's campaign manager, Nathan Rathbun, did not return a phone call for comment.

Jacob says both immigrants were here legally on student visas. He sponsored the two Chilean natives about six years ago, because his LDS bishop at the time, Gilbert Fellingham, had asked him to help them, Jacob said.

Fellingham said he didn't recall the details but did say "my understanding was that they were in the country legally, here on student visas. We tried to help them solidify that status."

Jacob said he worked with an immigration attorney and understood that the two students could work part time. The attorney helped them create a company, so they could work, he said.

Marta did domestic and secretarial work and Oscar did some grounds work when he wasn't in school. He said Marta had asked to work "because she didn't want to receive something for nothing."

Jacob, contacted late Wednesday, said the paperwork wasn't immediately available but he would provide it to the Deseret Morning News. He said he didn't remember the attorney's name he had worked with, but he said that he would provide it after contacting the law firm.

"I'll be glad to show anybody my records," Jacob said. "I've got nothing to hide."

Lifferth said he knows the Silvas. He said they didn't tell him they were in the country illegally, nor did Jacob, but Lifferth said Jacob "admitted it to other people."

Lifferth said he's drafting letters about Jacob allegedly hiring illegal immigrants because during a debate this past weekend Jacob said he hadn't, to his knowledge, hired illegal workers.

"It's fairly common knowledge," Lifferth said. "People here in the neighborhood and (LDS) ward know about this situation."

Yapias, who asked both candidates Saturday whether they'd hired illegal workers, said it's "hypocritical" for Jacob to talk about deporting illegals if he did, in fact, hire them.

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"The majority of us somehow benefit from the labor of undocumented immigrants," Yapias said. "Here we have someone who has made immigration an issue, to take a hard stand on immigration, yet he himself has taken a part of it."

Jacob says his statement that he hasn't knowingly hired illegal workers is true.

He said Oscar Silva is now a nurse and a military officer in line to receive citizenship.

"My belief is, I have not hired anyone illegally," the candidate said. "I truly do not hire people illegally. I think it is wrong."


Editor's note: Joe Cannon, the brother of Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Deseret Morning News.

E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com