This week's Skinny column notes that House Speaker John Boehner is adopting a kinder, gentler approach to the DREAM Act kids. The political calculation may be less about compassion and more about finding a way to undermine the Senate's comprehensive immigration-reform package, but Boehner and other GOP leaders are hoping to give the impression that Republicans don't hate all Latinos.
But Boehner's efforts to be more Latino-friendly have been undermined again by Iowa Congressman Steve King, who is offering the opinion that Latino kids are more likely to be drug mules than high-school valedictorians. Talking Points Memo reports:
According to Rep. Steve King's (R-IA) math, legalizing undocumented immigrants is untenable because for every valedictorian DREAMer — immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — there are 100 more who are carrying drugs across the border.
"Some of them are valedictorians, and their parents brought them in," King told Newsmax in an interview last week. "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 that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” he continued. “Those people would be legalized with the same act."
King's comments drew a rebuke from Boehner, but King is standing by them—and getting support from Breitbart News, which notes that drug cartels are turning to minors to haul drugs across the border.
While cartels may indeed be recruiting kids to carry drugs, that hardly makes them hardened criminals. More likely, it makes many of them desperate kids who don't have especially good options or especially good judgment. And it's hardly the majority of kids who would be covered under the DREAM Act.
But King's comments go back to the argument raised some time ago by New York magazine's Jonathan Chait: Republicans are better off passing immigration reform quickly, because Republicans like King are going to say things that continue to alienate Latino voters:
The whole point of immigration reform for Republicans—other than, you know, helping people, which no doubt moves them very deeply—is to rebrand the party. A drawn-out immigration debate commanding center stage will simply create more opportunities for conservative Republicans to say offensive things about Latinos. And make no doubt: however diligently their consultants coach them not to, they will say offensive things about Latinos. So far we’ve had one Republican member call undocumented immigrants “wetbacks” and another publicly muse that some of them may be secret Al Qaeda agents.
And we’ve only just begun! A whole summer of this stuff could drive the Democratic share of the Latino vote into the 80s.