Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who is among the most outspoken critics of immigration in the Republican Party, said undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as young children - a group known as DREAMers - should not be given special legal status because it was impossible to separate good students from those who are running drugs.
"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," King said in an interview with Newsmax last week. "Those people would be legalized with the same act."
As the immigration debate intensifies in Congress, several House Republicans are supportive of finding a pathway to citizenship for the so-called DREAMers. House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor have both signaled their support for legislation aimed at young undocumented immigrants who have spent most of their lives in the United States.
"These children were brought at no accord of their own and frankly they're in a very difficult position," Boehner said last week. "And I think many of our members believe that this issue could be addressed."
And Cantor strongly denounced King's comments about DREAMers, becoming the first Republican leader to criticize the remark.
"I strongly disagree with his characterization of the children of immigrants and find the comments inexcusable," he told ABC News in a statement Tuesday night.
But King's comments suggested that not all House Republicans agree.
"Some of them are valedictorians, and their parents brought them in," King told Newsmax in the interview. "It wasn't their fault. It's true in some cases, but they aren't all valedictorians. They weren't all brought in by their parents."
It was the latest in a string of remarks from King that have been denounced by some Republicans and seized upon by Democrats.
Brian Walsh, a Republican strategist who worked on Senate races for the party, called on fellow Republicans to condemn the remarks.
"This is really outrageous and offensive rhetoric," Walsh said in a message on Twitter. "He should apologize."