Republican Congressman Steve King is defending comments he made last week that sparked controversy today and were denounced this evening by the top two Republicans in the House.
King’s remarks were about so-called DREAMers — people under the age of 35 who were brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents when they were children. King opposes efforts to grant the group legal resident status.
“I made a comment in an interview last week…and I said for every valedictorian, you have a hundred 130-pound drug smugglers with calves the size of cantaloupes,” King said earlier this evening during an interview with Radio Iowa. “And that comes from being down on the border, spending days and nights down there in multiple trips and time with the Border Patrol. That description essentially came from them.”
During a House hearing earlier today a Democratic congressman from Florida called King’s remarks “inflammatory” and “offensive.”
“And of course he didn’t have an alternative number,” King told Radio Iowa. “He didn’t suggest that there are more valedictorians than there are drug mules, but it’s enough for anybody to be offended these days. They apparently don’t have to use their brain.”
According to King, DREAM Act supporters are trying to tug at the “heartstrings” by focusing on the plight of DREAMers who’ve been good students.
“We have people that are mules, that are drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they’ve been doing for months, going through the desert with 75 pounds of drugs on their back,” King said. “And if those who advocate for the DREAM Act, if they choose to characterize this about valedictorians, I gave them a different image that we need to be thinking about because we just simply can’t be passing legislation looking only at one component of what would be millions of people.”
King is a leading voice in opposition to any House action on immigration, including the bill House GOP leaders say is in the works, something dubbed the “Kids Act” that would to grant some sort of legal status to those who were brought into the U.S. illegally when they were children.
“I agree. There are valedictorians in this group and my heart goes out to them,” King said, “but not to the point where I’d sacrifice the rule of law and legalize a lot of bad elements in the process.”
House Speaker John Boehner — the top Republican in congress — issued a written statement Tuesday night, calling King’s commentary “wrong.”
“There can be honest disagreements about policy without using hateful language,” Boehner said. “Everyone needs to remember that.”
King is trying to muster enough support from conservative Republicans in the House to block any immigration reform bill Boehner might wish to pass. King meets weekly with like-minded House members to plot strategy and this evening during his interview with Radio Iowa dismissed the idea he intentionally makes comments to spark controversy.
“I’m going to be the voice of reason and the voice of defense of the rule of law,” King told Radio Iowa, “and the defense for the American people.”
Listen to the entire Radio Iowa interview with Congressman King here.
The chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party issued a statement this afternoon, saying “Iowans have grown weary” of King’s “ridiculous” rhetoric. Eric Cantor, the number two Republican in the U.S. House, also issued a statement this evening saying he “strongly” disagrees” with King’s comments, which Cantor called “inexcusable.”