Iowa Congressman Steve King is defending his controversial comments about undocumented youths—known as “DREAMers”—most of whom King claims are drug mules.
In an interview Tuesday with Radio Iowa, King said his knowledge about drug-smuggling DREAMers came from first-hand experience:
“[My comment] comes from being down on the border, spending days and nights down there in multiple trips and time with the Border Patrol…It’s not something that I’m making up. This is real. 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 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…”
House leaders, who are currently patching together their own legislation on an immigration overhaul, wasted little time before condemning King’s remarks.
“What he said is wrong,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement Tuesday. “There can be honest disagreements about policy without using hateful language. Everyone needs to remember that.”
Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in his own statement, “I strongly disagree with his characterization of the children of immigrants and find the comments inexcusable.”
King’s remarks come as House Republicans are pushing for the KIDS Act—a softer version of the DREAM Act that has gained bipartisan support over the years and would create a path to legal immigration for some undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as children. DREAM Act supporters have criticized this move by Republicans because they say it will not address the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S.
Boehner boasted on Monday that “nobody’s spent more time trying to fix a broken immigration system than I have,” but fringes in his party could crumble the GOP’s efforts to woo Latino voters.
This week was not the first time King made waves with controversial remarks on immigrant youths. At the start of this year, King introduced legislation that would bar citizenship from children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants, or “anchor babies” as he calls them. The bill had 13 co-sponsors. Former GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan also jumped on the “anchor baby” bandwagon just this past May while speaking to constituents on immigration reform.
King isn’t taking back what he said, adding during the Radio Iowa interview, “As much sympathy as I have for especially the valedictorians—but some of them are not capable of being valedictorians, and they should have some of our sympathy, too—as much sympathy as we have for them, we cannot sacrifice the rule of law.”