Anti-illegal-immigration groups split on Utah list

Liz Goodwin

After an anonymous group of anti-immigration activists distributed a list of some 1,300 names and personal information purportedly belonging to Utah residents who are in the country illegally, no one is rushing forward to take credit for an act of information vigilantism that is against Utah state law. The list, which went out to state and federal enforcement officials as well as to local media outlets and state political leaders, came with a note urging that all the people included on it be deported — even though follow-up press reports have indicated that some of the names belong to legal residents of the United States.

Local and national anti-illegal-immigration groups tell Yahoo! News they are not responsible for the move. But the groups don't uniformly condemn publishing the anonymous accusations — which in turn bespeaks a revealing split in just how far different groups are willing to go in their push for more aggressive enforcement against illegal immigrants.

Ron Mortensen, co-founder of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration, says he objects to the list because there is "no justification" for releasing someone's private information. His group is pushing for the state to pass an immigration law modeled on Arizona's next year, and says the controversy over the list is "not helpful" for the movement.

Utah Minuteman Project co-chair Eli Cawley, however, was not so concerned about privacy violations — though he also said his group was not behind the list. "It's probably against some privacy laws," he said on local radio station KSL. "But I think in the interest of preserving our civilization, preserving our society, and protecting the people of the state of Utah, I think that's a greater interest than protecting the privacy of some individuals."

The list contained some Social Security numbers, addresses, dates of birth, and phone numbers of people — including 200 children — it accused of being in the country illegally. A letter from the anonymous group Concerned Citizens for the United States attached to the list also pointed out that six women on the list were pregnant and should be deported immediately. (ABC News has posted the letter here.)

Bob Dane, a spokesman for Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), backed away from the vigilante tactic. He told Yahoo! News that his organization encourages people to report illegal immigrants to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tip line. "If citizens want to help fight illegal immigration, use the tip line. And pressure politicians to enforce the laws," he said. An attorney for FAIR's legal arm helped craft the Arizona immigration law.

Meanwhile, William Gheen, president of the anti-illegal-immigration political action committee Americans for Legal Immigration, said the people behind the list are "heroes" who are expressing frustration with a lack of federal immigration enforcement.

Mortensen and Gheen said ICE's tip line is "useless" because of the agency's policy of prioritizing the investigation of illegal immigrants who could be a threat to society. An ICE spokeswoman told the Associated Press that the agency focuses "first on those dangerous convicted criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, not sweeps or raids to target undocumented immigrants indiscriminately."

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