SALT LAKE CITY — Reminiscent of the infamous list of 1,300 illegal immigrants that two state workers sent to the press, Utah news media are receiving a new anonymous letter from someone purporting to be a state employee. It claims the Department of Workforce Services is finding thousands of Social Security numbers used by illegal immigrants, but not warning the real owners.
DWS spokesman Curt Stewart says that claim is false. He also said since the letter is anonymous, no way exists to know whether the letter is coming from a real DWS employee or "someone who just wants to keep stirring the pot about the list" of illegal immigrants released in July.
"When someone can sign a name to it, we'll respond to it," Stewart said.
The state has said that two now-terminated employees compiled the earlier list of 1,300 illegal immigrants from state databases and sent it to the press. Almost all names on it came from families that had U.S.-born, U.S.-citizen children of illegal-immigrant parents, and those children had applied for benefits.
The letter asks, "Would you want to know if DWS learns your ssn (sic) was attached to someone else's work registration? Funded with tax dollars, should illegal immigrants be registering for work with DWS?"
DWS had said it hoped the termination of the employees involved would send a message that it would not tolerate release of information it collects that is private by law. Also, it promised training to help employees be more sensitive to the immigrant community and to help rebuild trust that was wounded by "the list."
But the new letter purports to come from a DWS employee and begins by saying, "For fear of the repercussions it would have on my career and reputation, please excuse my anonymity."
It claims that DWS often discovers — because of illegal immigrants registering for help to seek jobs — that they are using Social Security numbers that are bogus or that belong to someone else, "but says nothing to the owner or any other authority." It said thousands of Social Security numbers are involved.
It asks, "Would you want to know if DWS learns your ssn (sic) was attached to someone else's work registration? Funded with tax dollars, should illegal immigrants be registering for work with DWS?"
Stewart said those claims are incorrect.
"The only way we know a Social Security number is bad is when we do a wage match when somebody is filing for benefits, and the Social Security number comes back showing wages on a child under 12," Stewart said. "Then we report that to the Attorney General's office and to the parents or the family."
He added about the letter, "We can't figure out who's doing it and why they're doing it" — or if they are a state employee.
Stewart said DWS does not want to comment much beyond that to the anonymous letter because "by responding and giving it credit, then we've given that person whatever satisfaction they may receive for being an anonymous source."
Stewart said he has received inquiries about the letter from multiple news media.
The new letter and the earlier list come as conservative legislators are pushing a tough immigration enforcement law similar to a controversial one in Arizona, and illegal immigration has become a super-heated issue in Utah.