SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — 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.
“It was a very small group. The people identified certainly have some strong political opinions and seem to be frustrated around some of the issues around immigration,” said Kristen Cox, executive director for the department.
Newspapers and government officials started receiving the list of names and personal information this week, creating widespread fear in the Hispanic community. The anonymous mailing demands that those on the list be deported, although some named have said they are in the country legally.
The Utah attorney general’s office also will investigate and decide whether to file charges.
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.
Herbert said accessing the list and distributing to federal immigration authorities could also be a violation of federal law.
The list contains Social Security numbers, birth dates, workplaces, addresses and phone numbers. Names of children are included, along with due dates of pregnant women.
Cox said most of the people on the list are there because their children are receiving benefits.
The governor’s office has said it will give the information it has uncovered to the state attorney general’s office by Monday. Cox said there may be one or two more people implicated in the leak of the names, but she’s confident that the core group that is responsible has been identified.
Officials continued investigating Friday, even though state employees usually have the day off as part of the state’s four-day workweek to cut energy costs.
The investigation comes as Herbert, a Republican, prepares to host a public immigration summit Tuesday. Herbert has said he will sign an immigration bill into law next year if he’s still in office, but it’s unclear how closely that bill might mirror one lawmakers recently passed in Arizona.
Arizona’s law, which takes effect July 29, directs police enforcing other laws to determine a suspect’s immigration status if there is reason to believe the person is in the U.S. illegally. The Obama administration has sued Arizona to throw out the law and keep other states from copying it.