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121 groups ask feds to denounce, discard 'Utah list'

SALT LAKE CITY — More than 100 civil-rights groups and leaders nationwide are demanding that federal immigration officials throw away the "Utah list" and vow publicly never to use anything like it for immigration enforcement.

The groups — ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to Human Rights Watch — wrote to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano complaining that the response to the list from Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been too tepid so far.

They asked her to forcefully denounce the list of 1,300 illegal immigrants that was anonymously sent to law enforcement and the news media demanding that those listed be deported. Utah officials say two state employees extracted the information contained in the list from state databases.

The groups said they disliked public statements by ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice. She had told the Deseret News, for example, that ICE had received a copy of the list, but that as a matter of policy would not comment on whether it was using it in any investigation.

However, Kice noted that ICE has limited resources and focuses first on dangerous convicted criminal immigrants who present the biggest risk to communities and does not perform "sweeps or raids to target undocumented immigrants indiscriminately."

The letter asked Napolitano to issue a public statement "rejecting the Utah blacklist and this kind of vigilante approach to immigration enforcement."

The groups asked that she "commit not to rely on information furnished in the blacklist to pursue any immigration investigations or enforcement actions" nor use any such list in the future.

The groups also asked that she report on what ICE did with the list when it initially received the list in April.

"ICE has yet to condemn the blacklist as a major breach of privacy and civil liberties," the groups wrote.

Among others joining in the letter were Families USA, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, National Council of La Raza, United Sikhs and the World Organization for Human Rights USA.

The letter was signed by 39 national organizations plus another 82 regional groups and civil-rights leaders from 21 states and Washington, D.C.

It included 24 groups and leaders from Utah, such as Utah Catholic Diocese government liaison Dee Rowland, Utah Coalition of La Raza President Archie Archuleta, Centro Civico Mexicano President Frank Cordova and Proyecto Latino director Tony Yapias.

"For the government to utilize information that was compiled and released in violation of state and federal laws would only encourage future acts of vigilantism and breaches of privacy," said ACLU of Utah executive director Karen McCreary, whose state organization also joined in the letter.

She added, "This type of list, created illegally by state employees utilizing confidential government databases, serves only to inspire fear and distrust in our communities."

e-mail: lee@desnews.com