SALT LAKE CITY â€” Utah officials said Friday they have identified at least two state workers who apparently accessed confidential documents to create a list of 1,300 purported illegal immigrants that was mailed to law enforcement officials and the news media.
Gov. Gary Herbert said the employees work for the Department of Workforce Services, which administers food stamp programs and other public benefits. The employees have been placed on administrative leave, and the state attorney general will determine whether to file criminal charges.
“It’s a very small group. The people we’ve identified certainly have some strong political opinions and seem to be frustrated with some of the issues around immigration,” said Kristen Cox, executive director for the department. “I think it’s an immense hypocrisy to talk about taking people to task for being illegal and doing so by breaking the law.”
Newspapers started receiving the list of names and personal information this week, and its publicity created widespread fear in the Hispanic community. The anonymous mailing said it also was sent to immigration officials. It demanded that those on the list be deported, although some named have said they are in the country legally.
“This tactic by these rogue employees to go out and to single out individuals and their families, in some case falsely accusing people of an illegal status, is in fact deplorable,” Herbert said.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman acknowledged that it received the list but declined to say whether the agency is doing anything with it.
ICE won’t confirm whether it has been investigating anyone unless there is some type of action such as an arrest, spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. She noted that with limited resources, the agency prioritizes its efforts on dangerous convicted criminals, not sweeps or raids that would target undocumented immigrants indiscriminately.
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