Barry Wong said he wants to save utility customers from future rate hikes and his plan to do it would shut off the power, and other utilities, to illegal immigrants in the state.
“We shoulder and we all share the costs,” said Wong, who is running for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission. “Granted they pay for it, but as we use more electricity overall then utilities will have to eventually build more power plants.”
If illegal immigrants have their utilities turned off, Wong predicts it would keep costs down for everyone else.
"The [state] constitution gives the Corporation Commission specific authority to deal with rate-making which is setting the price that we pay for the electric, natural gas, telephone service, private water companies," Wong said.
Wong, whose grandparents immigrated to the United State from China, said his plan would start off by having utility companies verify the immigration status of new customers. He would then focus on finding existing customers in the country illegally.
Wong said he would give customers plenty of advance noticed before any utilities are shut off.
“You wouldn't shut down somebody's power the next day. You put people on notice," Wong said. "I think they have to make their own decisions. It's an individual responsibility of how they're going to take care of it themselves without the utility."
Glenn Hamer, President and CEO of Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, blasted Wong in a written letter.
"Today is the third day in a row when Phoenix-area temperatures will reach 110 degrees or higher. Since you're a native Phoenician, I don't need to remind you of the peril our state's most vulnerable residents face in our summer heat. To deny someone access to electricity based on his or her immigration status is not only a wrongheaded policy proposal, it's just cruel,” Hamer wrote.
“Your claim that your proposal is somehow consumer-friendly is absurd. The costs of implementing your plan would be borne by ratepayers, never mind the hit taxpayers would take as police and fire departments would increasingly be responding to heat-related emergencies,” the statement added.
Critics contend Wong is using the immigration issue to try and win the election. Wong denies it.
“I don't need this issue. I'm doing fine. I've been campaigning almost a year and, frankly, I don't need to grandstand with this issue,” Wong said.
The plan has a list of hurdles to overcome before it could be passed. First, Wong would have to be elected. It would have to be studied, go through a public hearing, and would have to be approved by the majority of the five member commission.
Do you agree with the plan? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Copyright 2010 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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