"Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem," State Rep. Virgil Peck said during an appropriations committee meeting, according to news reports.
He was referring to an agricultural program that controls the state's population of feral hogs -- an invasive species that often carries disease -- by shooting them from helicopters. He later apologized for the remarks.
"I'm Virgil Peck and I made an inappropriate comment," the Republican lawmaker told CNN on March 17. "For that, I'm sorry, and I apologize to anyone that I offended with my inappropriate comment. I'll be more careful with my words in the future."
But a coalition of immigrant advocates insists an apology is not sufficient, given the violent and hateful nature of the rhetoric, and that Peck must step down.
On Friday, activists delivered a petition with 50,000 signatures to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and House Speaker Mike O'Neal asking them to directly intervene on their behalf and ask for Peck's resignation.
"Rep. Peck's words were dangerous," explained Lalo Muñoz from the Latino Informational Network of Kansas. "There is no place in our Kansas State Legislature for someone who uses offensive words to endanger and create fear in our communities."
Peck has so far refused to resign.
Gov. Brownback, who initially called Peck's comments "completely inappropriate," has said he considers the matter closed.
And Kansas House leaders said in a statement that they had met with Peck, accepted his "sincere apology" and "appreciated" his pledge to be more diligent with his choice of words in the future.
"His comments were dehumanizing and inappropriate and have no place in our national discourse," U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez of Texas, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement.
"They are also counterproductive to having a responsible debate, have the potential to result in regrettable consequences and could incite prejudices and biases that are harmful to our nation."
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups across the country, said the number of hate crimes against Latinos has grown 40 percent since 2003, motivated in part by what they say is more widespread use of inflammatory political rhetoric.
Of the 1,002 active hate groups in the U.S. in 2010, according to SPLC, there are six chapters of anti-immigrant groups in Kansas.