Video: Anti-immigration views take radical turn

  1. Transcript of: Anti-immigration views take radical turn

    OLBERMANN: Tonight, there is good news for the Utah State legislators working on copy cat legislation that would mirror Arizona `s Papers Please Immigration Law . An anonymous vigilante group has beaten you to the punch. In our number one story, a, quote, concerned group of American citizens in Utah has a list of 1,300 alleged illegal immigrants living in their state and they are demanding that these people be deported. The list of names was sent to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement Office in April. The concerned group provided names, addresses, birth dates, and phone numbers of 1,300 people, which it determined to be in this country illegally. The group demanded quick action, because, quoting the cover letter, some of the women on the list are pregnant at this time and steps should be taken for immediate deportation. Monday, news outlets began to receive an updated list. According to the " Salt Lake Tribune ," the new list features 31 Social Security Numbers , the names and dates of birth of 201 children, and the due dates of six pregnant women . Almost all of the 1,300 surnames listed are of Hispanic origin. As for their collection method, the vigilante group explains "this list is a result of hard work by a large force of tax-paying citizens, over the course of many months, who live throughout the state of Utah . Our group observes these individuals in our neighborhoods, driving in our streets, working in our stores, attending our schools, and entering our public welfare buildings. We then spend the time and effort needed to gather information , along with legal Mexican nationals, to infiltrate their social network and help us obtain the necessary information we need to add them to our list." Our NBC affiliate in Salt Lake has spoke to the one man in this list who admitted he is in the country illegally and another woman who told them, quote, "I have my papers. Why did they put me on that list." I`m joined now by Tony Yapias , a community activist in Salt Lake City . He also hosts his own radio show . Mr. Yapias , thank you for your time tonight.

    TONY YAPIAS, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Thank you.

    OLBERMANN: You, too, have spoken to people on this list. What are they saying to you?

    YAPIAS: They`re terrorized. They`re very afraid. I`ve been getting calls all day long with regards to what should they do? Should they move from the address where they`re at, go somewhere else, stay with families? So this has really had a tremendous impact in our community.

    OLBERMANN: The governor of Utah has asked state agencies to investigate if the state`s government allowed private information to be released improperly and to contribute to this list, either inadvertently or in some sort of direct form. One, do you believe that`s happened here? And two, do you have any evidence if that has happened here?

    YAPIAS: I believe, based on the information that`s been provided, that this information came from a state agency . Primarily a social service agency, where Medicaid , or some certain social information was taken with regards to the family`s not only status, but also to the whole family. So, based on the list that we`ve looked at, and the phone calls that we made to the families, it appears that it, in fact, comes from a database, not from these groups, as they say, that they`ve been watching them in their streets and all that. It`s much too sophisticated of a list to be put together this way.

    OLBERMANN: I imagine every piece of that list is chilling to see it. I can only apologize for anybody who might have done something like this to a group of people who are in this country trying to work hard and live right. But one thing particularly just freaked me out about this. The idea that there were due dates for the six pregnant women . How on Earth would that information have been obtained?

    YAPIAS: Well, again, I mean, there`s -- we`ve eliminated every agency where we think this information would come from. And the only place it goes to where they would provide this type of information would be a social service agency, where they were getting some services from them. And this is for their citizen child, not for themselves, because they don`t qualify for services.

    OLBERMANN: Is there anything -- wherever the information came from, is there anything about the fact of this list that is illegal in your estimation?

    YAPIAS: Well, I mean, we`ve been talking to some legal experts. I mean, there`s a HIPAA violation. There`s all kinds of different state and federal violations, potentially, in this. So we commend -- I commend the governor for taking immediate action upon making the request to begin an investigation. He immediately asked the agencies to do that. So we appreciate that, the fact that he didn`t take -- it didn`t take him -- I don`t think he winked at it. He just said, look -- he recognized the severity of it and how important it was. And further, we know that there are some legal families, permanent resident families who are impacted in this. And when they found out they were on the list, imagine the shock they got.

    OLBERMANN: The Immigration and Customs people have confirmed they`ve received the list. They`re not going to comment on whether or not they are using it. Are you concerned that they might actually use it?

    OLBERMANN: Well, yes. That`s the main concern of all 1,300 people that are on the list. But, you know, the group waited a couple of months. Remember, this was sent April 4th , and it appears they were frustrated that ICE didn`t take care of the business, I guess, as they call it, and that`s why they decided to send it to media and everyone else, to make sure that now, this time, they can do something about it. We`re hoping they won`t take action on that, because they haven`t committed a crime, per se, just by working here.

    OLBERMANN: And as the governor responded, correctly, the media has responded correctly? Nobody has made this list public, but are you worried that might yet happen? What happens if the list gets out through the media?

    YAPIAS: It is. That`s the biggest concern. Because whoever the individual or the individuals who participated in this, if that gets online in the way that our technology works today, it could be in seconds it could be online and you could have potentially, individuals supporting these anti-immigrant groups that could go to their homes, to their residences, and it could create a lot of problems.

    OLBERMANN: Tony Yapias , the former director of the Utah Office of Hispanic , now a local radio show host in Salt Lake City , many thanks for your time on such an extraordinary day. Thank you.

    YAPIAS: Thank you. >

msnbc.com and NBC News
updated 7/14/2010 4:57:22 PM ET 2010-07-14T20:57:22

SALT LAKE CITY — Advocates of tougher immigration enforcement joined civil rights activists in condemning circulation this week of a list of alleged illegal immigrants to Utah state agencies and news organizations, saying it sent the wrong message to violate privacy laws in seeking to enforce immigration laws.

  1. An msnbc.com-NBC News report
    1. By Alex Johnson of msnbc.com and Richard Piatt of NBC station KSL-TV of Salt Lake City.
The 30-page document included addresses, phone numbers and birthdates for about 1,300 people it said were in the country illegally. Some of the names — almost all of which were of Latino origin — also were accompanied by Social Security numbers and medical information, such as “baby due 4/4/10.”

A cover letter demanded that the people on the list be “deported immediately” with a call to “DO YOUR JOB AND STOP MAKING EXCUSES! WE DEMAND ACTION.” It identified the senders as Concerned Citizens of the United States, a previously unknown group.

The cover letter said the list had been sent to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on April 4. ICE confirmed Tuesday that it received the list but said that “as a matter of policy” it could not confirm or deny whether it was taking any action.

Immigration and civil rights experts said Wednesday it was not immediately possible to verify whether the information in the list was accurate, but they said it appeared to have been derived from state records.

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    1. Letter from anti-immigrant group (PDF)
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“That kind of information is collected by government, for government purposes, and it’s supposed to be protected by government,” said Brian Barnard, managing attorney of the nonprofit Utah Civil Rights & Liberties Foundation. “If it was illegally accessed to create that list, that’s a crime, and it’s something that government should be concerned about.”

Gov. Gary Herbert ordered an investigation to determine whether state resources were illegally used to generate the list.

Bernard’s concern was shared by Rep. Steven Sandstrom, R-Orem, who is drafting a Utah version of the controversial law in Arizona that cracks down on illegal immigration.

“I think it’s a wrong approach,” Sandstrom said. “It sends the wrong message, and it doesn’t follow the rule of law with the bill that I’m writing.”

Ronald W. Mortensen, a vocal proponent of cracking down on illegal immigrants, agreed, saying circulation of the list “wasn’t an appropriate action.”

“It’s never right to release documents,” said Mortensen, a co-founder of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration, which denied having had anything to do with the list.

‘I’m angry, because I’m legal here’
Circulation of the list created alarm among immigrant communities in Utah.

Tony Yapias, director of the nonprofit group Proyecto Latino de Utah, said he had taken calls from many frightened people.

Yapias, former director the Utah Office of Hispanic Affairs, said he told a caller: “Look, I have your name, your address — I have all your information.”

“She just could not believe it,” he said. “You can’t do that to people.”

One woman, who is not being identified by name to protect her, told NBC station KSL-TV of Salt Lake City that she was on the list inaccurately.

“I have my papers!” the woman said, saying she had had her green card for more than a decade and was scheduled to become a U.S. citizen next month.

“I’m angry, because I’m legal here,” she said. “I’m going to be a citizen in August — I have the ceremony in August.”

Marina Baginsky Lowe, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, called the list “distressing,” describing it as “vigilante action.”

“Are we now going to be living in a place where we have to worry about our neighbors spying on us, taking down our private information and delivering it to law enforcement under the guise of taking the law into their own hands?” she asked.

Minuteman group denies involvement
Suspicion initially surfaced that the Utah Minuteman Project, a group that says it works “to secure our home land from those who illegally cross our borders,” was behind the list. But Eli Cawley, the group’s co-chairman, told KSL that his group was not involved.

He said he supported the list, but only as long as the information was accurate and was obtained legally.

“If you had a legitimate list that didn’t unnecessarily or negligently point out citizens and legal residents, then I think that would serve the greater interest,” Cawley said, adding that protecting legal Utah residents outweighed the privacy of illegal immigrants.

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