Vigilantism in the American west is nothing new though there appears to be a novel wrinkle coming out of Utah.
Someone sent a list with the names, addresses, phone numbers and personal information of 1,300 people who the sender claims are illegal immigrants to media outlets and government offices in Utah. The sender asked the news outlets, including the state's largest newspaper, the Salt Lake Tribune, to publish the names.
The SLT hasn't done that though it has reported on the list and the state government's reaction to it.
As Nate Carlisle, an SLT reporter who has covered the story told All Things Considered co-host Michele Norris during an interview on Wednesday's program, state officials want to know who's compiled the list and distributed it because privacy and other laws may have been violated.
CARLISLE: Utah law makes it a criminal offense to disclose data that's not deemed to be public. So you could even have some criminal charges resulting from this.
One of the issues with vigilantism is that, because it usually dismisses with such legal niceties that local, state and federal governments in the U.S. are bound by, like due process for instance, mistakes can happen. In this instance, there are necessary questions about the list's accuracy.
Michele asked Carlisle if the SLT talked to any of the people whose names are listed:
CARLISLE: Sure, because everyone's phone number is on the list. Yeah, we've talked to a couple, including a pregnant, well a woman who was pregnant. It listed her due date on there as having given birth in April. We talked to her and she confirmed that she did have a baby recently. And she doesn't know where this data would have come from but she confirmed the data when I read it to her. And she for one said she recently became a legal resident of the United States.
Carlisle tells Michele that at least one of the sheriff's office's that received the list and was contacted by the SLT said it would forward the list to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But Carlisle doubts anything will come from that, as do I. Carlisle notes correctly that ICE's current focus is on illegal immigrants involved in criminal violence or other felonious behavior.
CARLISLE: The list in question, there are 13 hundred names across the entire state of Utah. In some fairness to ICE, I don't see how it's practical to start in Salt Lake City, work your way 300 miles down to St. George, then start working your way across to Moab. That would take a tremendous amount of manpower. And then you would have to assume that all 13 hundred names are undocumentd immigrants who should be deported.