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Two state lawmakers running immigration reform bills were e-mailed perceived death threats over the weekend and Utah Highway Patrol authorities confirmed Monday they are investigating the matter and taking it "very seriously."

Reps. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, and Chris Herrod, R-Provo, were the only two state lawmakers to receive the one-and-a-half page letter, confirmed top state law enforcement officials, who said they were too early in the investigation to determine the severity of the threat.

Utah Public Safety Commissioner Lance Davenport, who oversees the UHP, said in the wake of the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in Tucson, as well as "living in a post-9/11 world," even veiled language needed to be scrutinized.

"We don't want to overreact, but at the same time, we don't want to risk not taking it seriously," Davenport said. "Because the world we live in now is the way it is, we want to do the right thing and protect our legislators."

Sandstrom, who authored HB70, the enforcement-only bill that has been decried by some critics as racist, said the letter "freaked out" his wife. However, he said it was possible that whoever wrote the letter "may have not been thinking about what they were doing." But after his SUV was egged this weekend and his daughter's car had tomatoes thrown at it, he decided to alert law enforcement.

The letter is signed the "United Front for Defense of Immigrants" and features the images of Che Guevara and, separately, a semiautomatic weapon with a banana clip. It isn't directly addressed to Sandstrom or Herrod.

Instead, it is headed with the words, "In response to HB-70 (Communique III-2/11/11)" and references Arizona — the home of the nation's first enforcement-only law that became the epicenter of the immigration debate.

The letter says: " A comprehensive immigration reform has never and will never be established in Utah through peaceful dialogs [sic], civil discourse, or the Mormon Church involvement. It will be established as any other revolutionary changes always have been ... by pen and gun, by word and bullet, by tongue and teeth."

The letter was typed and double-spaced, and Davenport said the team of investigators was attempting to track down who wrote it.

"We're still in the risk-assessment stage," Davenport said.

In the letter's opening, it lays out a methodology for the debate on immigration reform.

"The confrontation that we are calling for with the racist State of Utah does not know Socratic debates neither Platonic ideals nor Aristotelian diplomacy. But it does know the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing, and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine gun."

Herrod said he didn't plan to back down in light of the threats.

"It's a moral issue to me and you stand up for what is right," he said. "You take a stand regardless of the consequences."

dmontero@sltrib.com Read the emails (PDF)

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