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Those who have followed Representative Steve King’s (R–IA) habit of demonizing immigrants as criminals may not have been surprised when he told a journalist last week that “there are 100 Mexican immigrants, with calves the size of cantaloupes, smuggling drugs for every DREAMer valedictorian.”
This follows a long history of derogatory and hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric by King and others who prefer to obstruct progress toward a legislative solution that could actually address the serious problem of America’s broken immigration system. ADL sent a letter to Rep. King today urging him to retract his offensive statements and to refrain from using incendiary and inappropriate language.
Despite widespread criticism for his offensive comments on immigrant children, Rep. King insisted again on June 25on the House floor that undocumented immigrant children are often drug mules who carry illegal substances across the border from Mexico.
There was a swift and targeted condemnation that followed from the top House leaders, as well as other key players in the immigration conversation, including the House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC). Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R–VA) stepped up to condemn the remarks immediately. The Speaker called on legislators to reject hateful comments that he said were “deeply offensive and wrong.” Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, said: “I strongly disagree with his characterization of the children of immigrants and find the comments inexcusable.”
At Speaker John Boehner’s weekly press briefing yesterday, he again condemned Rep. King’s remarks within the first minute of the briefing – unprompted and forcefully saying:
“I want to be clear: There is no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials. Earlier this week, Representative Steve King made comments that, I think were deeply offensive and wrong. What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party. We all need to do our work in a constructive, open, and respectful way.”
ADL has consistently called on political leaders and candidates to speak out against intolerant and dehumanizing rhetoric. In letters to Reps. Boehner and Cantor ADL commended their leadership in publicly rejecting such rhetoric. ADL hopes other legislators will follow. The letters noted that “policies adopted in the halls of government, and the tenor and rhetoric used to debate them, directly impact the lives of immigrants and all minority groups, regardless of their immigration status.”
The task of fixing America’s broken immigration system is urgent and serious and demonizing immigrants does little to advance constructive solutions. It merits a respectful policy conversation that upholds America’s best ideals of ensuring dignity for all and that honors America’s heritage as a nation of immigrants.