A leading Utah group which opposes illegal immigration has condemned the mass mailing of a list of 1,300 suspected illegal immigrants to various media outlets, law enforcement agencies, and the state House and Senate in Utah on Monday July 12th, 2010. Ron Mortensen, a spokesman for the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration, objected to the methods behind the list and the tactic of making people’s private information public. Mortensen also told KTVX Channel 4, "Nobody should be acting on this information. If this gets out into the public I'd say disregard it. It is not a proven source. It is not proven information so just disregard it." His objections are prudent, since media investigation has already uncovered erroneous information on the list. Another activist, Eli Cawley of the Utah Minuteman Project, said he also disapproves of the list because he doubts its accuracy and it could disparage American citizens. But Cawley also said the effort reflects the compilers’ frustration with illegal immigration.
The mass-mailing of the list by a group calling itself the Concerned Citizens of the United States on Monday has triggered a firestorm of controversy; KSL's initial July 12th story attracted 832 public comments, and their July 13th follow-up has attracted 867 comments so far. The 30-page document contains addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, 31 Social Security numbers and medical information on 1,300 suspected illegal immigrants; the list also included 201 children, and the due dates of six pregnant women. Almost every surname is Hispanic, which is understandable since, due to Mexico's proximity to the United States, the preponderance of illegal immigrants is Hispanic. The list was accompanied by a cover letter demanding that people on the list be deported immediately with a call to "DO YOUR JOB AND STOP MAKING EXCUSES! WE DEMAND ACTION." They claim the list was sent to law enforcement, the media, the Department of Homeland Security, state lawmakers and the governor -- only some apparently ever got it. You can read the cover letter HERE; the list of names has not been released to the general public. July 13th KSL news video embedded below (another news video is available on KSTU Channel 13):
Media investigation has already uncovered several discrepancies on the list. One woman contacted said she came to the U.S. in 1984, has had a green card for more than a decade and is scheduled to become a citizen in August. Another woman from Clearfield confirmed she's the one on the list with the designation "Baby due 4/4/10", but said she's a legal resident of the U.S. But several contacted by media confirmed their illegality, but because they have kids who were born in the U.S., they started blubbering over the phone about "what will happen to my kids, etc., etc., etc." (sorry lady, you had years to get paperwork and you didn't do it).
Utah Governor Gary Herbert has ordered an investigation to determine the origin and provider of the list. Scrutiny is expected to fall upon the Utah Department of Workforce Services, the Department of Health, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The state’s information technology department will conduct the probe, and information uncovered will be turned over to the Attorney General’s Office, since Utah law makes it a misdemeanor to disclose government data not meant for public dissemination although there are protections for whistle blowers.
As expected, the Hispanic lobbies are squawking. Frank Cordova, president of the group Central Civico Mexicano, said the release of the information is destructive to efforts to bring people together to reform immigration policy, rather than trying to cut so many people’s throats and hurt them in the manner this is coming down. But Tony Yapias, the director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, went completely over the top. Yapias said he thinks he already knows who did it -- he doesn't have a name, but he does believe it came from a state employee. He also believes that employee was inspired, if not directly encouraged, by Ronald Mortensen of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration. Even after Mortensen denied the allegation, Yapias said "He can say all he wants that I have wrongfully accused him. Ronald Mortensen and his group have created the environment, if not themselves have been involved in this."
And this drew a sharp rejoinder and the threat of a libel suit from former U.S. Senate candidate Cherilyn Eagar, who released a public statement to the media (obtained from Redstate):
SALT LAKE CITY—July 13, 2010—Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, a pro-illegal immigrant activist group, has wrongfully accused citizen members of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration and its spokesman Ronald Mortensen of disclosing an allegedly proprietary government list of individuals who are in Utah illegally.
Mortensen said, “To my personal knowledge our coalition knew nothing of this list and had nothing to do with its disclosure. I believe this act goes over the line. Our entire focus is on protecting the personal information of individuals against improper use and disclosure. We denounce whoever compiled and released this list, and ask them to respect and uphold Utah’s privacy laws.”
Mortensen accused Mr. Yapias of slander and libel, and demanded an immediate, public retraction by Mr. Yapias on threat of potential legal action.
Former U.S. Senate Candidate Cherilyn Eagar said, “Mr. Yapias is out of line to hold Mr. Mortensen responsible. The coalition is a group of citizen volunteers who have successfully worked to put solid legislation in place. We want our elected officials to enforce those laws and to work within our legislative system to enact laws that will keep our children and families safe. This is the duty of our government and this is the message we will take with us to the Governor’s meeting later this month.”
Mortensen added, “From the County Sheriff, to the City Police Chief, to the state legislature and our governor, we are about promoting the safety of our children and families from illegal alien driven identity theft and other serious crimes.”
General Public Reaction: Two local media outlets are running unscientific polls to take the public pulse. A KTVX poll shows that 63.1 percent of respondents so far believe those responsible for the 'immigration list' should NOT be punished. And a KSL poll which asks one's opinion of this list of purported illegal immigrants has drawn the following response so far:
1. Disturbing and dangerous: 26% (884 votes)
2. Concerned about privacy, legality: 16% (548 voted)
3. Hope it spurs the government to action: 29% (980 votes)
4. Anything to get rid of illegal immigrants: 30% (1024 votes)
I voted for the number two option for three reasons. First, these types of lists can have errors; lists aren't always updated. Second, it crosses the line from activism to vigilantism. And finally, since I objected to gay activists publicly releasing the names of those who contributed to the Yes On 8 campaign in California, then to be consistent, I must object to the release of this list as well. We've not reached the point where we need vigilante action...yet.