Coalition Denounces AZ Chinese American Candidate Proposing "Cut off Utilities to Immigrants"

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Barry Wong Campaign for Arizona Corporation Commission

Joint Letter from Asian American Groups

Asian Americans Denounce Anti-Immigrant Proposals

    Recently, Barry Wong, a Chinese American candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission, told reporters that, if elected, he would require regulated utilities to check the immigration status of customers. The Corporation Commission regulates utility companies providing electricity, gas, water, and telephone services in the state.

"There is a cost ratepayers shouldn't have to bear because of the illegal-immigrant population," said Wong. He said that asking utilities not to serve illegal immigrants could protect other ratepayers from utility hikes.

Following Arizona’s passage of Senate Bill 1070, politicians across the country have begun to jump on the anti-immigrant bandwagon. Proposals include utilization of police and government service agencies as immigration enforcers, new hi-tech systems for identity checks, and hotlines for reporting on individuals suspected of being undocumented. Barry Wong's proposal to prevent the undocumented from getting utility services is just the latest in this wave of punitive, inhumane anti-immigrant proposals.

As Asian Americans, we denounce anti-immigrant proposals like Barry Wong's that purport to save consumers and taxpayers money but instead will create needless expensive bureaucracies and untold suffering. The anti-immigrant hysteria sweeping the nation only serves to scapegoat immigrant families and distract the public from our nation's real problems.

Some important points to remind ourselves:

  • All immigrants, including the undocumented, pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits. The undocumented are ineligible for cash assistance, food stamps, disability, unemployment, subsidized housing, and most medical services.  The Social Security Administration holds more than $400 billion in contributions that the undocumented will never claim.
  • Our biggest tax burden is not benefits for the undocumented—we are spending trillions on the military budget and the bank bailout!
  • Free trade policies allow corporations to cross borders and uproot populations, but we punish the workers if they cross our border to find work.
  • Immigration crackdowns like those in Arizona hurt us all, resulting in racial profiling, civil rights violations, further workplace exploitation and obstruction of services affecting the undocumented, permanent residents, and citizens alike.
  • Excepting Native Americans, we are all rooted in immigrant families.

Asian Americans like Barry Wong would do well to recall the racist Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, when Chinese—and later other Asian nationalities—were barred from immigration to the US explicitly on the basis of race. For the next six decades, Chinese nationals escaping famine and unrest in the homeland entered the country illegally by purchasing documents to prove themselves the sons of earlier migrants. Many of today's Chinese American permanent residents and citizens still carry "paper names" as a legacy of this period.  Extensive bans on immigration from Asia remained in place until 1965.

When contemplating measures such as those advanced by Wong, Asian Americans need to remember this history.  We must ask ourselves, what is the greater threat—families who seek a better life but lack legal status or an unjust and punitive law that diminishes all of us?

Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA)
API Movement Building
Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW)
Asian Americans United (AAU)
Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)
Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) – Boston
Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) – San Francisco
Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) – San Gabriel Valley
CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities
Deported Diaspora (DD)
Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) Pacific Southwest District
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPWF)
Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (NCRR)
Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (Viet-AID)

MSNBC interview with Barry Wong (sorry, MSNBC attached a commercial to the clip)