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.


    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. >

updated 7/14/2010 9:22:17 PM ET 2010-07-15T01:22:17

Investigators examined records at several state agencies Wednesday to find the origins of a list being circulated around Utah that contains the names and personal information of 1,300 purported illegal immigrants and demands that they be deported immediately.

Utah is looking into whether a state worker may have illegally accessed a database containing the sensitive information to help compile a list that has sent chills through the Hispanic community.

The dossier — sent from an anonymous group to reporters, state officials and politicians — marks the latest example of hysteria that has spread since Arizona passed its harsh immigration crackdown this year. Immigrants liken the list to a modern-day witch hunt.

A 36-year-old Salt Lake City woman whose name was on the list along with those of her husband and three children, told The Associated Press through a translator that she's consumed by fear. She said her family is considering returning to their home outside of Mexico City where they all have citizenship.

"Our worst fear was that immigration will come for us or will stop us while driving or being out on the street," said the woman, who requested anonymity to protect her family's identity.

Story: List worries both sides of immigration debate

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 on the list.

Gov. Gary Herbert's spokeswoman said Wednesday it will likely be several days before it's known whether state workers leaked the personal information.

Arizona's law, which takes effect July 29, directs police enforcing other laws to ask about 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.

Conservative Utah lawmakers are considering adopting a measure similar to that in neighboring Arizona when they meet in January.

Read the anonymous letter sent to authorities (PDF)

Democratic state Sen. Luz Robles of Salt Lake City said she's worried the release of the list will distract from a substantive policy debate at a forum on immigration with the governor next week.

"This is one of those issues that's volatile. I don't know what's coming next," she said. "It was obviously a very calculated process and that is concerning."

Hispanic activist Tony Yapias said his phone was ringing off the hook with immigrants expressing concern about the list.

"This is real. This is a witch hunt style of doing things," he said while noting he had seven missed calls during his brief interview with the AP from concerned Hispanics. "What concerns me the most in this whole debate is just the cowardness, the intolerance."

Herbert spokeswoman Angie Welling said the governor did not set a timeframe for the investigation, but that it is a priority. The state's technology department is assisting to see which state agencies have records that match those on the list.

"Obviously they're working on it now and we're interested in hearing the results," Welling said. "It'll take several days. This is a lot of information and it will take some work to really get down to it because, obviously, those data are accessed for legitimate purposes on a daily basis."

While each state agency is being reviewed, Welling said most of the focus is on the Department of Workforce Services, the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services.

If there's an indication that a law might have broken, the Utah Attorney General's Office will investigate, Welling said.

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

"The people who sent out this information — if they are interested in making sure the law is followed — they should identify who they are and explain in detail how they obtained this information so we know whether or not they violated the law," said Paul Murphy, spokesman for Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

In a letter included with the list, the writers say their group "observes these individuals in our neighborhoods, driving on 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 who infiltrate their social networks and help us obtain the necessary information we need to add them to our list," the letter says.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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