The U.S. Border Patrol earlier this month arrested a 12-year-old illegal immigrant smuggling 80 pounds of marijuana from Mexico into Texas, reigniting a debate over controversial comments made by a Republican congressman earlier this year about children’s involvement in the cross-border drug trade.
Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who has called for a crackdown on illegal immigration, had said there were more young illegal immigrants smuggling drugs than there were ones who were valedictorians of their classes in U.S. high schools.
In the Texas incident earlier this month, Border Patrol agents arrested six Mexicans — two adults, two 17-year-olds, a 16-year-old and the 12-year-old — smuggling more than 300 pounds of marijuana.
“They were carrying the marijuana on their backs and when arrested it was discovered that the 12-year-old boy had the heaviest load at 80 pounds,” the Border Patrol said in a statement describing the arrest.
The adults and one of the 17-year-old children were held after the early December incident, but the others — including the 12-year-old — were returned to Mexico, the Border Patrol said.
Mr. King said the incident shows he wasn’t exaggerating his claim that children smuggling drugs into the U.S. is part of the immigration debate.
“My critics were either woefully uninformed or deliberately misinformed the public for the purpose of advancing their amnesty agenda,” he said in a statement.
He stirred up the controversy over the summer when was talking about some of the tougher cases in immigration, such as the so-called “Dreamers” — the young illegal immigrants who are generally portrayed as having been brought to the U.S. by their parents.
“Some of them are valedictorians — and their parents brought them in. 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. For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” the congressman told Newsmax.
Mr. King’s critics included everyone from the New Yorker magazine to late-night comics to House Speaker John A. Boehner, who called the comments “hateful or ignorant.”
Immigration advocates delivered cantaloupes to Mr. King’s office, and some started circulating a petition trying to pressure the GOP to oust Mr. King from his seat on the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee.