- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rep. Steve King isn’t backing down.

Mere hours after House Speaker John A. Boehner condemned Mr. King’s recent remarks that young illegal immigrants are often drug smugglers, the Iowa Republican and staunch opponent of immigration reform delivered a stem-winding speech on the House floor Thursday to hammer home his point.

Mr. King has defended his recent statement that for every valedictorian who comes into the country — cases eagerly highlighted by legalization advocates — there are 100 more young illegal immigrants who have “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

Mr. Boehner said Thursday the remarks make the already-precarious prospects of passing immigration reform more difficult, but Mr. King said Thursday he was merely speaking the truth.

“I can tell you that in Mexico they are recruiting kids to be drug smugglers between the ages of 11 and 18,” Mr. King said Thursday afternoon. “They have arrested, and I believe incarcerated … over 800 per year over the last couple of years at that ratio of those who are kids who are smuggling drugs into the United States.”

“Every night, some come across the border, smuggling drugs across the border — increasingly the higher-value drugs: heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine in some form or another are being strapped to the bodies sometimes of young girls, teenage girls,” he continued. “The media’s replete with this. Anybody that reads the papers should know, especially those that live on the border, should know that there are many, many young people coming across the border unlawfully who are smuggling drugs into the United States.”

On Thursday morning, Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, called Mr. King’s previous comments “deeply offensive and wrong.”

“What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party,” the speaker said at his weekly news conference, volunteering a criticism of Mr. King before even being asked. “We all need to do our work in a constructive, open and respectful way. As I’ve said many times, we can disagree without being disagreeable.”

But Mr. King’s “cantaloupe” remark has been universally denounced, and has also dominated headlines in recent days as the House continues its piecemeal approach on immigration reform.

House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor, Virginia Republican, who called Mr. King’s remarks “inexcusable,” and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, are working on a measure that would deal with the status of so-called “Dreamers,” the nickname for illegal immigrants who were brought into the country as minors by their parents.

They’re named after the Dream Act, a bill from several years ago that did not pass Congress that would offer legal status for such immigrants if they met certain conditions. Last year, President Obama issued a directive saying that illegal immigrants between the ages of 16 and 30 that also met other conditions would not be deported.

In protest, some young people brought cantaloupes to Mr. King’s office Thursday.

A bill that would beef up security on the southern border and create a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country passed the Senate last month, but the House has taken a slower, more step-by-step approach.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said Thursday she does not believe immigration reform is dead, and that she remains hopeful.

“We have to find a way. And the speaker has talked about bringing bills together to the floor and — whatever it is, whatever the path is, we have to find a path to go to conference, to come up with a bill that the president will sign, that we can all support in a bipartisan way, and recognize that that will have some unease,” she said. “[T]here are some poison pills. But they’re not lethal. And we can live with that.”

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