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Utah says 2 state workers involved in creating list

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Who's behind Utah immigration list?
  • NEW: Governor says some on list may have legal status
  • 2 Utah state employees believed involved in creating list with alleged illegal immigrants' data
  • The data includes personal information about 1,300 alleged illegal immigrants
  • Gov. Gary Herbert calls the release of information release "deplorable"

(CNN) -- The Utah Department of Workforce Services said Friday it has identified at least two employees believed to be involved in creating a list containing the personal information of a purported 1,300 alleged illegal immigrants.

"At this point we don't think it was a very large conspiracy. We think it was two, maybe. We have suspicion of a couple of more people, a very small group," said Kristen Cox, the executive director of the Department of Workforce Services.

"Release of such private, sensitive information is deplorable," Gov. Gary Herbert said in a news release. "We immediately took action to discover the origins of this list, and I'm pleased with the hard work of the Department of Workforce Services. When someone does business with the state of Utah, they deserve to know that their private information will be kept private."

Herbert told CNN's John King on Friday night that the 1,300 people have Hispanic names and not all of them are in the state illegally.

Video: Outrage over list

The two employees have been placed on administrative leave pending completion of the full investigation and other employees may be identified as the review continues, the news release said. The Utah attorney general's office will review data from the investigation for possible further action.

"The people we've identified certainly have some strong political opinions and seem to be frustrated with some of the issues around immigration," Cox said. "Regardless of what their frustration is, they work for the Department of Workforce Services and for state government. They understand what the rules are. They understand the protocols. And if they want to go rogue, they need to quit the department. I think it's immense hypocrisy to take someone to task for being illegal and doing so by breaking the law."

The state focused on the Utah Department of Workforce Services, Herbert's office said Thursday, because all of the information on the 29-page list -- including contact information, Social Security numbers and pregnancy due dates -- is contained within that agency's database. Information from the investigation may be turned over to state prosecutors, a statement from the office said.

The list was anonymously distributed to media and government offices across the state, CNN affiliate KSTU-TV reported. An accompanying letter from "Concerned Citizens of the United States" insisted that those on the list should be deported immediately.

Thursday, a group of Latino activists told reporters that the list had sparked widespread fear.

"Our community is very concerned, very worried about it," said Tony Yapias with Proyecto Latino de Utah. "I would say they have been terrorized, many of them. People are just afraid of what's happening."

Those named on the list are even more frightened, said Jesus Ramos with the Utah Coalition of La Raza.

"For these 1,300 people, unfortunately that fear has escalated," he said. "There's an arrest warrant out, essentially. That fear never goes away."

Herbert said Friday, "Some are scared and apprehensive. I understand that. I expect that comes with the status of being illegal. If I was in the country illegally, I would probably have fear and apprehension, too."

Utah Minuteman Project co-chairman Eli Cawley told CNN affiliate KSL-TV that he had some concerns about privacy and how the names were procured, but he would have released a similar list if he could have.

"If it were a reliable list and it had come from a source that was acknowledged and vetted, then yes, I would absolutely support something like that," he said.

But Herbert said Friday the information shouldn't have gone out to anyone, even the government agency charged with enforcing immigration law.

"It's a violation of federal law to take this information and give it to ICE, whether it's out there or not," the governor said, referring to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

"If we have laws on the books, they need to be enforced and we're enforcing it here on this breach of the law as it appears on disclosing confidential information," Herbert said. "But I also believe the issue at hand, the underlying issue of illegal immigration, is something that needs to be addressed also. We know the frustration of the people out there because of the inaction of the federal government, in particular, in enforcing the law."

Herbert has plans to bring together a "spectrum" of viewpoints, some "diametrically opposed," for a roundtable discussion on immigration reform in Utah on Tuesday.

"We see what's happened in Arizona. So Utah, like other states right now, are saying if the federal government is not going to do something, we will take steps to do something ourselves within the parameters of the law. It may mean creating new law," he said.