CNN's Wolf Blitzer pressed him to retract his words, but Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, said he stood by his statement to Newsmax TV
that for every valedictorian who came across the border illegally, there are 100 children smuggling drugs.
"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," King told Newsmax on July 18.
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"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," King said in the Newsmax interview. "Those people would be legalized with the same act."
King was referring to the Dream Act, which would give children of illegal immigrants legal status. One of the popular arguments for the Dream Act is that children did not come to the United States of their own volition, and many of them are even the valedictorians of their classes.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, accused King of using "hateful language," and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said King's description of the children of illegal immigrants was "inexcusable."
But King told Blitzer that the facts support his words. He said he never said most who come across the border are drug smugglers, but that for every valedictorian there are 100 drug smugglers.
"You get one valedictorian per class per year," he said. "Every night there are dozens and scores of people that are smuggling drugs across our border. I've been down there multiple times. I've sat along the border at night."
King said he's spent time with border officers and that his assertions are factual.
"This isn't something made up in thin air," he said. "I've seen it with my eyes and watched the data and video that support what I say, and the longer this dialogue goes, the more the American people will understand what I'm saying is factually correct."
In fact, King added, the numbers are probably much worse, explaining that while there are undoubtedly some valedictorians who are children of illegal immigrants, the actual numbers are very few, he said. But there has been a tenfold increase in the past 18 months in the number of illegal drug arrests related to border crossings.
"And the people who are carrying them are increasingly young people," he said. "We have a problem here. Those people would be legalized with those valedictorians as well."
Blitzer continued to press King, citing more Republicans who have condemned his comments.
None of those people saw the full video of his interview or read the full transcript, King said.
"Instead, they're reacting to what a reporter has said to them, which is going to be an edited version. If I were going to make derogatory comments about my colleagues I would go listen to what they said, and I would have an objective opinion."
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King challenged Blitzer to run a word search through the Congressional Record to see how many times "valedictorian" comes up. It peaked in 2006 during an immigration debate, King said, and threatens to do so again.
"Some of these kids are good kids. It's not their fault," King said. "Yes, there's some really good kids that are part of this, and it's too bad they are caught in this flux that we are in. But by the same token you will also be legalizing those people who are breaking our laws in a very bad way — smuggling drugs."
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