Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), under fire for his comments that many immigrant children are criminal drug runners, quietly defended those remarks on the House floor late Wednesday night.
King took to the floor at the invitation of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), as part of a general discussion about immigration. King argued broadly that the Senate immigration bill would mean amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.
The Iowa lawmaker did not directly address his controversial comments from the weekend, but near the end of his remarks, King asked to insert a statement into the Congressional Record, "just for clarity purposes." He did not explain what that statement was on Wednesday night.
The report explained that more children are being arrested for moving drugs between the U.S. and Mexico, and quoted a drug trafficking expert as saying the trend is "growing at a worrying pace."
King also inserted a portion of his weekend radio interview, in which he said supporters of immigration reform are depicting illegal minors as valedictorians and argued that many criminals would also benefit from a pathway to citizenship.
"For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds — and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," he said. "Those people would be legalized with the same act."
King’s comments on illegal immigrant children being drug mules were quickly condemned by House GOP leaders, with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday calling them “wrong” and Majority Leader Eric Cantor saying the remarks were “inexcusable.”
In that same interview, King said he has sympathy for many people, and he included those remarks as well in his submitted statement.
"That doesn't mean there aren't groups of people in this country that I have sympathy for, I do," he said. "And there are kids that were brought into this country by their parents unknowing that they were breaking the law."
But in his discussion with Bachmann, King also indicated support for current law that requires children brought into the United States to leave once they become old enough to realize they are illegal immigrants.
"[W]hen they become of age, and they realize that they're unlawfully present in the United States, the law requires that they remove themselves. It's just the law," he said.
"So we expect them to accept this responsibility, whether it was the intent that they had when they came in or the intent that they have to stay tomorrow. If we don't do that, then we've absolved a whole class of people from a responsibility and rewarded them with the objective of their crime."