It’s the stuff of fiction. A vigilante group with a vaguely patriotic name creates a list with the help of someone—perhaps a disgruntled government-employee/mole—who is fed up with the system (think Michael Douglas in Falling Down). The list contains the names, social security numbers and other private information of hundreds of people whom the vigilantes deem “undesirable.” The list even identifies pregnant women and their due dates and recommends that they be first on the list for “elimination.” The list is delivered to a wide range of government, law enforcement and media groups, accompanied by a letter insisting action be taken to remove the undesirables.

Unfortunately, this bizarre tale is not the plot of a new movie or a New York Times bestseller, but a real drama which just happened in Utah. An anonymous group called “The Concerned Citizens of the United States” compiled a list of 1,300 alleged unauthorized immigrants—including birth dates, workplaces, and social security numbers—accompanied by a letter instructing government agencies to “begin deportation now.” They write:

Some of the women on this list are pregnant at this time and steps should be taken for immediate deportation.” They also promise to continue sending “new lists on a continual basis.

The list (which appears to contain a mix of accurate and inaccurate information) is outrageous, but sadly not at all surprising, given the downward spiral of anti-immigration tactics and antics of other “concerned citizens” who have taken up the restrictionist cause. Utah has a mixed record on immigration, but, unfortunately, is home to a growing number of hate groups and is not immune to efforts advocating the adoption of “show me your papers” legislation. However, despite the outrage around this list, some Utah state legislators are pressing forward on their work on SB1070 style legislation.

In their rush to look tough on immigration, Utah legislators should proceed with caution. Charles Kuck writes on the ILW blog:

A bigger concern for Utah has to be the fallout and consequences of “The List” and prospective state legislation on immigration. If Utah politicians ignore not only the political consequences, but their own heritage in moving forward toward passing an Arizona style “show me your papers” type of law, Utah will become, like Arizona, an economic pariah. Utah will be faced with declining foreign and domestic investment as the result of efforts to isolate those states that pursue legislation that serves no legitimate law enforcement, drives immigrants further into the shadows and away from the police, and deepens the divide in the United States over what is good for the future of America. Fifty different state laws on immigration policy is not a way to effectively run a country.

Utah, a state with a $700 million budget shortfall, certainly can’t afford to become the next Arizona by alienating its immigrant and Latino populations. IPC research shows:

Mexican immigrants in Utah “own property valued at $984 million,” have more than $1.0 billion in purchasing power, and paid more than $67 million in state and local taxes: $7.5 million in income tax; $52.2 million in sales tax; and $7.6 million in property tax.

There are other famous examples of “list building” that put a chill in the spines of most Americans. From the bygone days of McCarthyism to the historic Salem Witch Trials, the idea of a private group building a list of names and handing it over to government officials to be investigated just seems archaic and out of line. It is, alas, just one more example that screams out the need for immigration reform in Congress. It also begs the question: how much worse will it have to get before it gets better?

Photo by dhammza.