Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, was asked today about comments made by Republican Congressman Steve King that there are more drug smugglers than high school valedictorians among the ranks of illegals who would be given citizenship under the immigration reform bill. During his weekly conference call with reporters, Harkin says he has been asked in the past about other comments King has made.
“I’ve always said it is not helpful for pubic officials to engage in stereotypes or hurtful rhetoric that is divisive and doesn’t move the debate forward,” Harkin replied. “Language that degrades people is not a solution to our immigration problem, nor does it bring us together as an American people.”
Harkin was asked a follow-up question about how he sees the issue as a Catholic. He says it is a moral and justice issue as the illegals are coming to American seeking jobs to help their families and often taking jobs that no one else wants — such as working packing plants.
“Every time you eat a piece of chicken, just think about who cut that chicken up. Or a piece of meat or a pork chop. The next time you eat a vegetable, think about who picked that vegetable in stoop labor, or a lot of our fruits, think about the stoop labor that made it possible for you to go down to your grocery store and get that,” Harkin says. “These are not slackers, these are not drug dealers.”
Harkin was asked about how King’s comments might impact the image of Iowa. He responded that Republican Governor Bob Ray’s effort to bring in the Veitnamese Boat People in the 1970s gave Iowa a good standing it is a shame to see that standing “done in by insensitive comments.”
Harkin was asked if today’s issues are different because the Vietnamese Boat People were legally invited to Iowa. He admits they came to Iowa legally after Congress passed a law allowing them to be here. “I think what I was getting at was the fact that immigrants have always enriched our society, always. Now, are there some that come in here and break laws, of course. Of course there are some,” Harkin says.
“But that is such a minority and by passing the immigration bill and brining people out into the sunshine, you are better able to figure out who those people are and get them out of the country, or put them behind bars as the case may be.” Harkin says many immigrants who have come to Iowa worked and started businesses and he has always felt very good about the way Iowa has treated immigrants.