King, R-Iowa, told a conservative news website last week that with respect to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as kids, “for every one 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.”
The comments began to circulate widely Tuesday, drawing condemnation from Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., other Republicans and numerous Democrats, including White House press secretary Jay Carney. They’ve also already become fodder for at least one pro-Democratic political fundraising group, the House Majority PAC, which highlighted them in an email to supporters Thursday.
The group United We Dream, which represents undocumented youths, organized its leaders to deliver cantaloupes to King’s office Thursday afternoon while clad in caps and gowns.
Several hours after Boehner spoke, King took to the House floor to defend his remarks and expand on them, though he did not directly mention Boehner’s criticism.
“There are many, many young people coming across the border unlawfully who are smuggling drugs into the United States,” King said, adding that “no nation like the United States of America can continue to grow and be a strong nation if we are going to judge people because they disagree with our agenda rather than the content of their statement.”
“We should understand facts from emotion,” King said. “We must not sacrifice the rule of law on the altar of political expediency.”
Despite his criticism, Boehner did not suggest he had any plans to take action against King, such as removing him from the House Judiciary Committee. “I think I’ve made myself very clear when it comes to Mr. King,” Boehner said when asked about such disciplinary steps.
Immigration legislation is in limbo in the House as Boehner and other GOP leaders debate how to move forward after the Senate last month passed a comprehensive bill with border security, visa reform and a path to citizenship for 11 million people here illegally. House Republicans have rejected the Senate approach, and Boehner has said they plan to move forward in a piecemeal fashion with narrowly focused bills, starting with border security.
Boehner and Cantor also have embraced legislation to offer citizenship to some immigrants brought here illegally as kids — the subject of a hearing Tuesday where King’s comments first came under attack.