While House Speaker John Boehner publicly scolded Rep. Steve King for “ignorant” and “wrong” comments he made last week that drew comparisons between immigrants hoping to gain U.S. legal status under the DREAM Act and drug runners, the Iowa Republican did not back down from his remarks that offended many undocumented workers and proponents of immigration reform.
“There’s no question that my comments were anything but ignorant,” King said in an on-camera interview with ABC News Thursday afternoon. “What I spoke to was fact.”
Last week, King told Newsmax, “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.”
Today, King did not relent, saying that “80 to 90 percent of illegal drugs come from or through Mexico.”
He added that the Drug Enforcement Agency told him that in every distribution chain of illegal drugs in the United States, “at least one link in that chain is an illegal immigrant.”
“We have young people that are being recruited from age 11 on up to increasingly smuggle drugs into the United States,” King said. “We seem to want to be ignorant of that because there’s such a desire to pass a DREAM Act, which would include some valedictorians. We’re all sympathetic to those valedictorians, but it isn’t all going to be valedictorians.”
King added that many people who are smuggling drugs would fit the qualification to become a DREAMer, as spelled out in the Senate-passed comprehensive bill.
Asked whether he regretted the way his words came out, King said that if he “watered down” his statement, it would reflect many of his previous statements, which he contended “no one listened to.”
“Now, at least, people are required to stop and look and realize the impact of a policy that would grant amnesty to those whom we have the most sympathy for, and for those whom we’d most like to keep out of the United States,” he said.
King said he did not speak directly with Boehner about his remarks, and said the speaker went about it the wrong way by delivering a harsh rebuke during his weekly news conference.
Maricela Aguilar, who said she was an undocumented student from Milwaukee who was born in Mexico, attempted to deliver cantaloupes to King in his office Thursday afternoon. While she and small group of so-called DREAMers were unable to meet with King, she said they delivered the fruit to a staffer.
“The comments that he is making are unacceptable,” she said. “Our legs are not the size of cantaloupes, and even if they are we are not drug runners and we are here as students and as people.”
Aguilar, 22, called on Boehner to go beyond his public dressing-down of King and strip him of his assignment on the Judiciary Committee.
“We need action to [Boehner's] words,” she said. “If [King] is a person that is one of the key players in the committee that is talking about immigration reform, he needs to be out of there. Those comments are ridiculous, they’re outrageous and they’re unacceptable.”
“We are here,” she added. “There’s 11 million of us, and we are here to stay because this is our home, and this is the new face of America, and we built America and we deserve to live in the place that we have built.”
Aguilar said she believes King’s rhetoric was “spiteful, and hateful and racist,” and was intended “to criminalize us, our families and our communities.”
“Whether or not our calves are the size of cantaloupes, we are not drug runners,” she said. “What he’s trying to do is like give this narrative of us being criminals and being bad people, but we’re not. We’re good students. My parents are good people.”