WASHINGTON — Reaction by leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as Hispanic and civil rights organizations, has been swift, strident and steady this week in answer to anti-Hispanic comments made by U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
Responding to DREAMer supporters’ contentions that the contributions and potential of tens of thousands of undocumented Latino youths are undervalued, the six term Republican Congressman told the conservative Website Newsmax July 18 that for every “illegal immigrant” who becomes a valedictorian, “there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and have calves s the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Fellow Republican Raúl Labrador of Idaho quickly characterized King’s comments as “irresponsible and reprehensible,” adding, “I hope that if he thought about it, he wouldn’t say such a thing again.”
But he already has. Since then, King has elaborated in a July 23 Radio Iowa interview with O. Kay Henderson , “It’s not something that I’m making up. This is real. We have people that are drug mules…You can tell by their physical characteristics what they’re doing for months, going through the desert with 75 pounds of drugs on their back.”
“What he said is wrong. There can be honest disagreements about policy without using hateful language,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reacted.
“It’s no wonder that the American people continue to see Republicans as out of touch,” says Democratic New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján.
“Horrible and certainly not true,” contributes another Democrat, Texan Rubén Hinojosa, who chairs the 27-member Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “America expects members of Congress to exemplify what is great about our country. Generalizations about children, about entire races of people are intolerant, disrespectful and not very intelligent. Our country expects better from us. Comments made by my colleague across the aisle are below those expectations.”
The District of Columbia Latino Caucus has minced no words. In a statement, it said “Congressman King represents what is wrong with today’s Congress and he is an embarrassment to the people of Iowa. He should spare further embarrassment to his constituency and resign immediately.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is calling on Speaker Boehner to remove King from two major House committees, judiciary and the subcommittee on immigration and border security. “That ugly, hateful language has no place in our debate about immigration,” said DCCC Chairman Steve Israel.
The Dream Action Coalition launched a petition asking GOP House leadership to show the Latino community that it does not share King’s beliefs.Maricela Aguilar and Ray José, with United We Dream, delivered cantaloupes and their concerns to King’s office in a sign of protest July 25.
But so far, Iowan King, from a state that’s less than 4% Hispanic, sees no apology necessary. “I gave a different image that we need to think about because we just simply can’t be passing legislation looking only at one component of what would be millions of people,” he told Radio Iowa.
Editor’s note: This article was previously published by Hispanic Link News Service.