Representative Steve King says he never claimed every DREAMer was a drug mule with cantaloupe-sized calves.
No, just 99 percent.
The Iowa Republican touched off a furor when he explained to the conservative online publication Newsmax his opposition to citizenship for undocumented workers, even if they were brought to the United States as young children. “Some of them are valedictorians — and their parents brought them in” King said. “It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents. For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Later, on CNN, King was offered a chance to alter his comments, but he refused. “You get one valedictorian per class per year,” he said. “Every night there are dozens and scores of people that are smuggling drugs across our border. I’ve been down there multiple times. I’ve sat along the border at night.”
No doubt with a tape measure in hand, sizing up those melons.
The congressman may be loopy, but he is consistent. “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 doing for months, going through the desert with 75 pounds of drugs on their back,” King told Radio Iowa. “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’s bigotry embarrassed Republican leaders in the House. Speaker John Boehner of Ohio called King’s comments “wrong,” and he criticized the Iowan for “hateful language.” Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader who hails from Virginia, said they were “inexcusable.”
“Irresponsible and reprehensible,” was the label placed on the remarks by Raul Labrador of Idaho, who then went on to blame journalists for reporting King’s comments while ignoring favorable Republican statements on immigrants. “Make sure that your article talks about what every Republican said,” Labrador told reporters, “not what one outlier said.”
It was typical Republican shoot-the-messenger rhetoric.
Republicans leaders were quick to gang up on King because the GOP House conference is in a tough spot on immigration reform, under pressure from the president and a bipartisan contingent of senators who passed a comprehensive reform bill last month and caught between national, establishment Republicans interested in contesting presidential elections in the future and most congressional Republicans interested only in winning reelection.
In a wan attempt to wriggle out of this dilemma, House Republicans are now considering some version of the DREAM act. Republicans like Boehner and Cantor voted in 2010 against the measure to grant citizenship to children brought in illegally by their parents, but they now see, in Cantor’s words, the plight of this segment of the Hispanic community as “an issue of decency and compassion.”
GOP resurrection of the DREAM act indicates how far the debate over immigration reform has moved since Mitt Romney’s shellacking among Hispanic voters in 2012.
The DREAM act is also a recognition by House leaders that it’s the least they can do without supporting what anti-reform Republicans dub as “amnesty.” Because while indicating they would make concessions to children brought to the United States illegally, House Republicans have shown no sympathy to the parents of those children nor to the wider undocumented community. Representative Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, put it bluntly: “We cannot reward those family members who have broken the law.”
The GOP message: Kids, you can stay, but blow a goodbye kiss to mom and dad.