SALT LAKE CITY – 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.
Intentionally releasing a private record in Utah is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If someone stole such a record, it could be prosecuted as a felony with a penalty punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.