UPDATE: Read the Radio Iowa story here; below you’ll find the text and audio of the interview.
Iowa Congressman Steve King did an interview with Newsmax last week and King made reference to the so-called “DREAMers” — people under the age of 35 who were brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents and who would be granted permanent resident status under a bill originally introduced more than a decade ago by Senator Orin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, and Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois. To qualify for permanent resident status, a “DREAMer” in their scenario would have had to arrive in the U.S. before age 16 and be a high school graduate. This is what King said last week to Newsmax about DREAMers that has generated controversy today:
“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.”
I just talked with King by phone this evening.
King began by saying this: “It seems as though I have a few critics out there, but those who have been advocating for the DREAM Act have been trying to make it about valedictorians…I don’t disagree that there are DREAMers that are valedictorians, but it also would legalize those that are smuggling drugs into the United States. I made a comment in an interview last week….to Newsmax…and I said: ‘For every valedictorian, you have a hundred 130-pound drug smugglers with calves the size of cantaloupes.’ 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.
“…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 because we just simply can’t be passing legislation looking only at one component of what would be millions of people.”
AUDIO of King’s inteview with Radio Iowa, runs nearly 7 minutes.
What follows is a transcript of the rest of the Q&A.
Henderson: “As the original DREAM Act sponsored by Hatch and Durbin outlined it, if you were under the age of 35 and you were brought in the U.S. before you turned 16 and you graduated from high school, you could get legal residence status, not citizenship. What percentage of people who meet that criteria do you think are drug-runners or are valedictorians?”
King: “I’m suggesting that the percentage of people who would be legalized under the vague and unprovable criteria — and we should remember that we can’t do background checks on this universe of people and about half of them that are here don’t have a legal existence in their home country; they don’t have a birth certificate if they’re not born in a hospital in Mexico, for example — and so I will tell you that people that are involved in drug smuggling that would be legalized under this, if history is any guide, it will be in the many multiples of those who are valedictorians. I agree. There are valedictorians in this group and my heart goes out to them, but not to the point where I’d sacrifice the rule of law and legalize a lot of bad elements in the process.”
Henderson: “Do you intentionally say things like this to spark controversy?”
King: “No, not really. I knew I was making a point in an interview and I made the point and it had gone out on the Internet and on the airwaves for days out there and it was relatively dormant until another member of congress decided that he was offended and, of course, he didn’t have an alternative number. 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.”
Henderson: “It’s also my understanding that House GOP Leaders have actually offered to pass something akin to The DREAM Act instead of the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill. Do you support that?”
King: “Well, I’d like to know what that is. We had a hearing today for a bill that wasn’t written yet, that is dubbed in the press ‘The Kids Act’ and…four members of congress testified and there were four witnesses. All eight of them were for this bill we haven’t seen…and that’s the kind of thing that I’m in the middle of here and I made the point and they’re resentful because now it has changed the subject and we’ve turned the focus where it should be (on) America’s national security and the safety and security of the American people.”
Henderson: “So what’s next in this drama?”
King: “Well, it’s one day and one piece of the saga at a time. We shall see what comes next, but from my standpoint I’ve taken an oath to uphold the constitution and the rule of law and 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, but as much sympathy as we have for them, we cannot sacrifice the rule of law. Our sympathy should not outweigh the rule of law, so we should not deconstruct America because the way that some of these kids have been characterized pulls at our heartstrings.”
Henderson: “Do you have enough House Republicans who will vote as a block with you to bring nothing up regarding immigration, absolutely nothing, none of the pieces, let alone the senate bill?”
King: “At this point I don’t know. I can tell you that the group of people that have been meeting in my office every week…is certainly growing.”
King’s comments to Newsmax about drug mules generated this on Huffington Post and this from Talking Points Memo this morning. As King mentioned, Congressman Joe Garcia, a Democrat from Florida, called King’s comments “offensive.”
Others weighed in this afternoon. First, the Iowa Democratic Party’s chairman.
Des Moines – Iowa Democratic Party Chair Scott Brennan today issued the following statement after it was reported that Steve King once again made offense comments regarding immigration reform.
According to reports, King said about those who would benefit from the act, “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
STATEMENT FROM IDP CHAIR SCOTT BRENNAN
“Steve King’s comments are offensive, ridiculous, and go against the very values of respect and equality that Iowans hold dear. Yet, while Iowans have grown weary of these comments from Steve King, he continues to be the face of the Iowa Republican Party, and is consistently held up at their conservative standard-bearer. Republicans may try to rebrand themselves, but Steve King shows us their true stripes.
“The question is – do other Iowa Republicans stand with Steve King or will they condemn his offensive remarks? Do the candidates for US Senate share King’s views or will they denounce them? Does Congressman Latham? Does Governor Branstad? These are the questions that must be asked, and Iowans deserve an answer.”
Here’s a copy of an email from a group calling itself “Stop Steve King 2014”
Can you believe what Steve King just said?
He said that the majority of young immigrants are drug smugglers. This is right after he claimed that comparing immigrants to dogs was a “compliment.”
That is just plain offensive, and has no place coming from a member of the U.S. House. So far King has refused to apologize for his outrageous comments, instead declining to comment when one of his colleagues called him out for his destructive words.
If you are as outraged as we are, add your name to our petition and tell Steve King to apologize for his hurtful, offensive words.
This country was built by immigrants, and Steve King’s words comparing immigrants to dogs and drug smugglers are dangerous and wrong. Sign our petition now to tell Steve King to apologize.
Stop Steve King 2014