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Editorial: Steve King the saboteur

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JULY 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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“For everyone who’s a valedictorian,” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said last week about the nation’s undocumented high-school students in an interview with the conservative website Newsmax, “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.”

This is King’s latest attempt to derail an immigration bill in which he insinuates that an overwhelming proportion of America’s undocumented youth are actually well-trained, well-toned drug mules. It’s a stretch even for a congressman whose bread and butter is waxing xenophobic from the electoral comfort of northwest Iowa, 1,100 miles from the Mexican border.

The House Republicans are working on their answer to the Senate immigration bill that passed with bipartisan support last month. The Senate plan would create a path to citizenship for many of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, which many conservatives have decried as undeserved amnesty.

King is an unabashed opponent of amnesty of any kind. He was speaking about legislation similar to the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, when he made his most recent blunder.

King’s claim that some variation of the DREAM Act would effectively legalize drug smugglers is, of course, extremely offensive, but his comments also jeopardize the passage of crucial immigration legislation.

Immigration reform has so far been a divisive issue within the Republican Party. On one side are conservatives who oppose the legalization of any illegal immigrants; on the other are those who believe that immigration reform is necessary for both the country and the long-term viability of the GOP.

As it stands, the GOP is at a major disadvantage with Latino voters, a group that becomes more influential every year. According to a 2012 Pew Research Poll, 61 percent of registered Latino voters said the Democratic Party has more concern for Latinos. Only 10 percent said the Republicans have more concern.

Republican leaders want very badly to change that dynamic.

The problem is that, for now, without a concrete proposal on the table, the GOP’s immigration position is all about words. As such, King’s blustering is about much more than simply getting attention.

Every time King opens his mouth on the subject of immigration, he damages the credibility of the GOP as a willing party in the reform talks and as a party that cares about the well being of immigrants of all nationalities. Maintaining that credibility is important if the Republicans hope to lure Latino voters with an immigration bill. If the Republicans lose that credibility, they also lose the incentive to pass immigration reform of any kind.

That’s why House GOP leaders have vociferously denounced King’s comments instead of simply brushing them aside as the ramblings of a serial blusterer.

On Thursday, Speaker of the House John Boehner rightly called King’s quote “hateful” and “ignorant.”

Ultimately, this situation is very simple. There’s a big problem that needs to be solved and Steve King’s cartoonish bigotry makes it more difficult. For this we have King to thank, yes, but it’s also the 200,063 residents of Iowa’s 4th District who voted again for King and his deranged worldview last November.


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