Iowa Rep. Steve King defends immigration comments amid outrage

4:23 PM, Jul 25, 2013   |    comments
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Washington (CNN) - As the outcry from Democrat and Republicans alike grows over Rep. Steve King's remarks regarding immigration and drugs, the GOP congressman defended his comments Wednesday.

The comments originally came during a controversial interview last week where he suggested the possibility of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented children who excel while receiving an American education was not worth also legalizing the immigration status of drug smugglers.

"For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that, they weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," King, of Iowa, told the conservative online publication Newsmax. "Those people would be legalized with the same act."

Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer Wednesday whether he wanted to amend his comments, King stuck by his original assertion.

"You get one valedictorian per class per year," he said on AC360. "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."

Noting the officers he's met while on the border, King claimed that his assertion is factual.

"This isn't something made up in thin air," he said. "I've seen it with my eyes and watched the data and video that support what I say, and the longer this dialogue goes, the more the American people will understand what I'm saying is factually correct."

 

Several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus took to the House floor on Wednesday to condemn King's remarks.

In an emotional moment, Rep. Albio Sires, D-New Jersey, described the offense he felt at King's words.

"My parents brought me to this country at the age of 11," he said. "They brought me here for the freedom. They brought me here for the opportunities, and they never told me to strap 75 pounds of marijuana on my thighs so we can sell it in America."

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-New Mexico, said King's assertions "don't do anything to solve problems or bring us closer to a true bipartisan solution on immigration."

King's comments on immigration come at a difficult time for House Republicans. The group has vowed not to take up a Senate bill on comprehensive immigration reform, which passed last month. Instead they prefer their own version with stronger border control provisions and without a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

It was King who proposed legislation passed by the House of Representatives in June that moved to end an Obama administration policy deferring deportation for some young undocumented immigrants.

House Speaker John Boehner, a fellow Republican, condemned King's remarks on Tuesday, saying: "What he said is wrong. There can be honest disagreements about policy without using hateful language. Everyone needs to remember that."

Another top Republican, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, wrote, "I strongly disagree with his characterization of the children of immigrants and find the comments inexcusable."

But King shrugged those statements off on Wednesday, suggesting the two leaders hadn't viewed his comments in full.

"I don't think they saw the full video or read the full text," he said. "I think they are reacting to part of it and I think it may well be a staff recommendation."

 

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