July 1st, 2010
08:22 AM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Barry Wong

The attorney and Republican candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission says if he’s elected, the commission would require regulated utilities to check the immigration status of customers.

Wong, who was born in Phoenix to Chinese immigrant parents, told CNN on Wednesday, “Illegal immigrants use electricity that puts more demand on the system. If we continue to have the illegal population growing, the rate payers would have to shoulder the burden of the cost."

According to The Arizona Republic, commission members have the constitutional authority to regulate utilities such as the Arizona Public Service Co., Tucson Electric Power Co. and private water companies. Given the national debate over Arizona’s new immigration law, Senate Bill 1070, Wong told CNN he understands that his idea is controversial.

“There will be critics that will say, ‘Barry you’re very close to the immigration system. How can you advocate for this?’ But my parents, they came here under legal cover. They succeeded in America, working long hours in the grocery store and shunned assistance, and we took care of ourselves. Eventually they sent their four kids to college. I’m the last person to attack immigrants as a class in general.”

The Arizona Republic: Arizona's illegal immigrants should have utilities cut, candidate says

CNN video: Obama pushes lawmakers on immigration

Juan Rodriguez

The 20-year-old from Florida was among the labor, faith and immigrant rights leaders who met Monday with President Obama at the White House.

“Everybody in the immigrant community is hurt and angry by the president’s lack of leadership in prioritizing immigration reform on his agenda,” Rodriguez told CNN on Wednesday.

In May, four college students, three of them undocumented, completed a four-month, 1,500-mile walk from Miami, Florida, to Washington, sharing their stories of growing up as undocumented youths in the United States and calling for the president to stop deportations.

The four - Rodriguez, Felipe Matos of Brazil, Gaby Pacheco of Ecuador and Carlos A. Roa of Venezuela - attend colleges in Miami and became known as the "Trail of Dream Walkers" - a reference to the DREAM Act, a bipartisan proposal that would create a pathway to citizenship for thousands of young students who were brought to the United States years ago as children.

Rodriguez, a native of Colombia and the only one of the four walkers who is a permanent U.S. resident, said Obama is not doing enough to move the immigration issue forward.

“I expressed I was there representing this community that has experienced so much pain and such a huge sense of betrayal,” Rodriguez said.

Trail of Dreams website

CNN: Can Obama close divide on immigration?

Henry Louis Gates Jr. and James Crowley

The black Harvard University professor and the white Cambridge, Massachusetts, police sergeant both made mistakes in a confrontation last year that led to an arrest and a national debate on racial profiling, a report released Wednesday said.

After the  July 16, 2009, arrest of Gates by Crowley, Obama held a well-publicized "beer summit" at the White House, meeting with the officer and the academic.

Crowley arrested Gates when the police officer responded to a call of a possible break-in at a Cambridge residence, which turned out to be Gates' house. Gates was charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly yelling at the officer and protesting his actions. Charges against the professor later were dropped.

The report, conducted by the Cambridge Review Committee, said the situation quickly spiraled out of control. But even after the national debate over the arrest, both men told the committee they wouldn't have done much differently.

"Sergeant Crowley and Professor Gates missed opportunities to lower the temperature of their encounter and communicate clearly with each other, and the results were unfortunate for everyone concerned. They share responsibility for the outcome," the report concluded.

CNN: Report: Harvard professor, police sergeant share blame

Alan Lewis

The 29-year-old double amputee is getting ready to compete in the 30th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Held Sunday through July 9 in Denver, Colorado, by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America, the competition is the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world.

Lewis, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has taken part in six games before, winning a bronze medal in handcycling in 2009. He told CNN that he’ll enter in that sport again this year as well as swimming, basketball, table tennis and weightlifting. (He said he can bench-press around 350 pounds.)

Lewis lost both legs in a landmine explosion in July 2003 - while on duty in Baghdad during the early years of the Iraq war.

“It’s an adjustment once you first get into the wheelchair,” Lewis said. “But with the help of other veterans who have been there - and who can give the benefit of their experience - it allows you to maintain the competitive edge that you may have lost due to your injuries.”

Lewis added, “You may physically not be with your military unit anymore, but you become part of another group that understands what you are going through, and there’s the same sense of camaraderie that you once had.”

National Veterans Wheelchair Games website

Jacquelyn Mitchard

The author of the best-selling novel “The Deep End of the Ocean” e-mailed her readers and friends last week that a former Apple Valley, Minnesota, money manager created a Ponzi scheme to bilk her and 1,000 other investors out of nearly $190 million.

She wrote, "We learned we'd lost everything in a crippling theft by a hometown boy posing as an investment counselor."

According to the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minnesota, the former investment banker, Trevor Cook, pleaded guilty to federal counts of bank fraud and tax evasion. Cook is scheduled to be sentenced on July 26, the newspaper said.

“People find it hard to believe,” Mitchard told CNN on Wednesday. “No one had heard of Bernie Madoff when we invested with Cook. He had dummy papers, and they were convincing. No one knew what the flashing red lights were.”

A year after her husband died from colon cancer in 1993, Mitchard - a newspaper reporter and speechwriter, began writing fiction - something she had not done since she was a teenager. “Deep End” was published in 1996 and was selected as the first novel featured by Oprah Winfrey’s book club. It sold more than 5 million copies. Michelle Pfeiffer starred in the 1999 film based on the book. But now, Mitchard, 55, says she has nine children, ages 4 to 26, and no money.

“Right at this moment, I could have no house," she said.

So she’s applying for jobs, and she’s just finished her 19th book, called “The Girl Who Had No Face.”

She told CNN, “I’m not going to let my family down. I have no idea how we’re going to make it, except for the strength and mettle my kids have shown.”

Pioneer Press: Ponzi scheme turns author's dream life into a nightmare

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. frederick j blacknight

    To Barry Wong...

    As an Arizona property owner I applaude your initiative and foresight! I think your approach is both legally sound and pragmatic. Access to Arizona utilities should only be granted to people residing legally within the state.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      You feel its legal so it must be! idiot

      July 1, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • ringer

      I don't live in Arizona, however I immigrated to this country over 20 years ago (legally) and full heartedly agree. It just isn't fair for those that did go through the system and worked their asses off to get there.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I'm not sure I understand this. It's not like illegal immigrants are getting the electricity for free. They still have to pay the bill like everyone else. How are they 'freeloading' in this case? I'm just not understanding the logic being used here.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      So meter readers are going to be drafted as snitches? Do they get combat pay or body armor? I know, he isn't going to win anyway so he's grandstanding, but still a bad idea.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. DRand

    You are lucky your parents were allowed here legally. It is basically like winning the lottery, what would have happened if they hadn't been so lucky? Where do you think you would be? They are especially lucky considering the racism that has been shown to Eastern countries in allowing them to immigrate to the US, the most blatant example being the Chinese Exclusion Act, but that certainly isn't the only.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Henry Miller

    Don't feel picked-on, Ms Mitchard–everyone in the country is the victim of the enormous Ponzi Scheme called "Social Security."

    July 1, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Laura Terry

      VERY well put, Mr. Henry Miller!!!

      July 1, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Texas Pete

      Nobody who is over the age 50 is going to get a dime from Social Security.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Actually, people under the age of 50 will get money from Social Security even if we don't do anything to change the program. We won't get 100% of what we 'should' but something close to 75%. Of course, minor changes to the program (like lifting the taxable salary cap) would pretty much fix that.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. whatnext

    What happened to you is a shame, Jacquelyn Mitchard, but even in the early '90s it was known not to put all your eggs in one basket.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. Chris

    Barry, you make it sound like the illegal immigrants are stealing the electricity. If they are paying customers, from whom profit is no doubt being made, their immigration status is not the business of the electric company. And as for "more demand on the system", boo hoo. A substantial fraction of the money that paying customers (including illegal immigrants) pay for electicity is SUPPOSED to go into infrastructure. The more people paying in, the more infrastructure you're SUPPOSED to build.

    Besides, if you were to run off all the illegals, the inevitable result would be more legal residents moving into the area. You do realize that those legal residents would use electricity too, don't you?

    Oh, and by the way, I find it very interesting that you seem to think only LEGAL immigrants work hard, or for that matter that only immigrants work hard. I guess bigots come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. Steve Brian


    July 1, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Akiles

    I am also a legal immigrant.

    Those people who protect illegal Aliens must be dreaming. Would you prefer illegal immigrants that was not screen for criminal records,AIDS test, Educational back ground, mental history and much more.

    Yes they work hard but I can also do their jobs as a Legal immigrant. Majority of those ILLEGAsL are uneducated and can barely speak english. Majority of Legal Immigrants are really upset about how Illegal aliens to have a think face to march on the street of their rights.

    What rights are they talking about? rights to be Illegal in America. How can they fight for their rights if they BROKE THE LAW of Immigration.

    California is broke because of illegal aliens.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      See, I actually don't think calling the immigrants is technically correct. Immigration generally refers to people taking up permanent residence in another country. I don't think most of the illegals are interested in that – they plan on being here for a few years to work and send money back to their family. If we had an expansive guest worker program which was properly regulated these people it would resolve a *lot* of the problems.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. WBMD

    But anyone who has electrical service at their house, regardless of immigration status, is a ratepayer. Doesn't make sense, except in the context that he is running for office.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tom P

    I would actually contribute money to have Wong and his family DEPORTED BACK TO CHINA.
    We don't want people like him here. I would trade him in for some good Mexican immigrants ANY DAY.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  10. Skid Vicious

    What Wong is saying doesn't even make sense. It implies that illegal immigrants are getting electrical service yet somehow they're getting it for free. Otherwise what he says about illegal immigrants getting electricity makes no sense.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. margaret johnson

    Barry, you are wong. I don't believe the electric company gives away electricity. Either you pay, or no power. They make
    money on people, paying immigrants, legal or not. If you weren't running for office, or commission, I doubt that this would
    get any attention from you or anyone else. The Electric Company is not in the position to police immigration.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. Chris P

    Re: Jacquelyn Mitchard: The "Deep End" movie starred Tilda Swinton, not Michelle Pfeiffer. Still good, though!

    July 1, 2010 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mallory

    It's time to limit American hospitality. If the flood of illegal immigrants continues to emerge into the country, there will be no more good opportunities left and the American society, such as we know it, built on the rule of law will no longer exist.

    Arizona Go!
    Share your thoughts on http://immigration.civiltalks.com/

    July 1, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. Joel

    There is one thing everyone should agree on and it is that there is a problem. We have too many illegal immigrants in the country. Why is this a problem?
    1) Easy, illegal immigrants are unlicensed and unisured drivers. They often don't obey traffic laws, drive the opposite direction of traffic, drive drunk and/or cause thousands of hit and run accidents annually.
    2) They game the system here to get free health care and benefits.
    3) Many are involved in gang activity and drug smuggling.
    4) Police are powerless to stop them because they have no way of citing them for breaking the law. Speeding, drunk driving. What are they going to do, suspend a non-existent license? Issue a court summons for which they will never show.
    5) Deportation is not an answer. I know personally individuals who have been deported in access of 4 times for crimes and were back illegally in under 48hrs. US persons committing those sames crimes would see jail time 1-2 years.

    The only answer is real border control. I have nothing against immigrants. I even have many friends who are illegals themselves. But we need to have someway of keeping out the BAD GUYS who keep coming back in. Right now there is no political will in DC to do that.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  15. Joaquin

    I am what you call 'illegal'. Ha Ha you all loose! I love this! you cant not do anything to me!

    July 1, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
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