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SALT LAKE CITY -- The governor's office is wasting no time trying to determine whether a supposed illegal immigrant list originated in a state database.
Law enforcement and Utah media received copies of the list Monday. Computer experts were working Wednesday to cross-check the list with various databases.
The state of Utah is a very high-tech state. We understand these databases pretty well, so we'll be able to have an answer in the very short future of whether we think it came from the state or not.
"We're closing in on different possibilities even now," the governor's chief of staff Jason Perry told KSL's Doug Wright Show. "The state of Utah is a very high-tech state. We understand these databases pretty well, so we'll be able to have an answer in the very short future of whether we think it came from the state or not."
Perry says Gov. Gary Herbert is receiving hourly updates from his director of technology services.
"If it did come from a state database, we're going to know it," Perry said. "If that's what happened, then we will take some corrective action immediately through the attorney general's office."
Perry says if the information did come from a database, several laws could have been broken and there could be a possibility of harassment claims down the road.
In fact, legal experts say those responsible could face legal trouble on several fronts, including a lawsuit from anyone misidentified as an illegal immigrant.
"They could have a claim for defamation because someone has made false statements about them," said Emily Chiang, a civil rights attorney. "They're private people and the statements, if you can prove that they're false, you might have a damages claim against whoever sent the letter."
"The easiest thing to solve all of this, these people who seem to be concerned about identifying people who are breaking the law, they should identify themselves and tell us whether or not they broke the law," said attorney general spokesperson Paul Murphy.
To take information from restricted government databases could violate privacy and government records laws. Federal law bans government from singling out a specific group for bad treatment.
In theory, it's possible this could be a federal civil rights case, particularly if anyone on the list were harmed. But much would be hinged on whether the person or people responsible for the list are gathering this information on their own, observing others in their own community.
"I think there's a big difference in the eyes of law between whether it's that sort of person or whether it's a government employee," said Chiang. "I think a lot turns on that."
The list of 1,300 names was circulated by an anonymous group to news and police organizations earlier this week. It included addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers and even due dates of supposed illegal immigrants. The group made demands that the people on the list be deported immediately.
Several people on the list that were contacted by KSL said they are legal immigrants.