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SALT LAKE CITY -- Some people are hailing two former Utah Department of Workforce Services employees as heroes for putting together a list of alleged illegal immigrants, but the head of DWS is setting the record straight.
The agency's executive director, Kristen Cox, says DWS is doing a full review of security measures designed to safeguard the confidentiality of hundreds of people in its database. She says people can feel confident their data in the system is secure.
There were things done to try to, I think, mislead the state to where the data came from.
–Kristen Cox, DWS
Tuesday, the agency turned over the names of two DWS employees it believes created a list of 1,300 alleged illegal immigrants to the Utah Attorney General's Office. Along with the names, the list contained some information "manually lifted" from the agency's database.
The list, sent to law enforcement and news media, included a cover letter from a group called Concerned Citizens of the United States. The letter said "this list is a result of a hard work by a large force of taxpaying citizens" observing immigrants in this country illegally. It called for them to be deported.
But Cox says, based on the agency's investigation, that the pair was working alone, without outside help, and that the cover letter was essentially a diversion.
"[A] cover-up," she says. "There were things done to try to, I think, mislead the state to where the data came from."
Cox says the two people behind the list are not whistle-blowers or patriots.
Some of that information is erroneous. They made it up. ... It's important for the public to understand that the individuals who compiled this list were not accurate in what they portrayed.
–Kristen Cox, DWS
"All those people on there, who are receiving benefits, are legal U.S. children citizens," she says. "There's no one on that list, but for one individual who received emergency medical care, which is required by the federal government."
Cox says other names in the database are household members they come across who live with the children. She says other information was just inaccurate, and the department doesn't know whether it was made up or where it came from.
"First of all, not everyone on that list is from our database," Cox says. "Some of that information is erroneous. They made it up. We don't know where they got it, so it's important for the public to understand that the individuals who compiled this list were not accurate in what they portrayed."
She says other employees in the agency feel demoralized by the entire controversy, and that the two suspects are a couple of "bad apples" out of a workforce of almost 2,000.
Wednesday, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff confirmed his office has begun an investigation of the two DWS workers.
"Our investigation will be thorough and swift," Shurtleff promised in a news release. "If there is evidence of wrongdoing, we will pursue the appropriate action."
The names of pair have not been released and likely won't until and if charges are filed.