The speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, has criticised a Republican Representative for making racist remarks about Mexican illegal immigrants. The remarks were made by Representative Steve King of Iowa.
In an interview for a right-wing website Newsmax, Mr King said that many children brought to the US from Mexico illegally as children were drug smugglers. He said 'for every one who is a valedictorian (star pupil), there's another hundred 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 said that these people were 'undermining our culture and civilization'.
Mr Boehner, himself a Republican, said that 'there is no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials'. He continued 'what he [King] said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party and we all need to work in a constructive open and respectful way'.
Ryan and Cantor criticise King for 'inexcusable' commentsFormer vice presidential nominee Representative Paul Ryan also attacked Mr King's comments. The House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor also called the remarks inexcusable. Representative Pete Olson of Texas called on Mr King to apologise for his 'hurtful' comments.
But Mr King has refused to apologise for his remarks and has, in fact, repeated them and even made jokes about them. Despite the fact that many senior Republicans have distanced themselves from the remarks, Mr King says that, in private, they support his stance. He told a US news channel that he got the weight of the supposed drug runners wrong by about ten pounds.
Mr King is a vocal opponent of immigration reform in the US. He is one of the Representatives who are 100% certain not to support the immigration reform bill currently before Congress. The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act 2013 was voted on in the Senate in June 2013 and was passed by 68 votes to 32.
Boehner says he will not allow vote unless has support of most RepublicansTo become law, the bill now requires at least 60% support in the House of Representatives. However, the speaker of the House, Mr Boehner, has said that he will not even allow the bill to go forward for a vote in the House unless he believes that at least half of Republican representatives are in favour.
Pro-immigration campaigners are now lobbying the House in an attempt to persuade Mr Boehner to allow a vote. Last week a Democrat representative Luis Gutierrez said that there are sufficient Republicans who support the bill for the bill to pass with the required majority.
The bill would reform all areas of US immigration system. It would contain the following provisions
- It would provide a pathway to citizenship for many of the estimated 11.5m illegal immigrants currently living in the US
- It would increase the number of H-1B 'specialty occupation' visas for graduate level workers from the current level of 85,000 (65,000 for graduates and 20,000 for PhD and doctoral graduates). The cap on PhD and doctoral H-1Bs would be removed altogether and the cap for graduate H-1Bs would rise immediately to 130,000 and could rise to 180,000 in times of high demand.
- Doctoral and PhD graduates of US universities would be able to apply for US permanent resident visas after graduation. There would be no cap on numbers.
- Border security would be greatly increased with the use of electronic surveillance, drones and a doubling of the number of border guards on the Mexican border.
- A new low-skilled w-visa for agricultural and construction workers would be created.
- US employers would be required to check the immigration status of all new employees against the E-Verify database to ensure that they were entitled to work.
Pathway to citizenship would reward illegal behaviourMany Republicans oppose the bill because of the 'pathway to citizenship' clause. They say it would reward illegal conduct by granting citizenship to those who entered the country illegally or overstayed their temporary visas. But there is also a fear among many Republicans that illegal immigrants, who are overwhelmingly of Latin American ethnicity, would be likely to vote Democrat once they became citizens, as do most US citizens of Latino descent.
Pro-reform campaigners have suspected that there is also a racist, anti-Mexican, element to Republicans' opposition to granting citizenship to the illegal immigrants. Mr Smith denies that his remarks are racist and says that the facts support his claims. In fact he said, that his claim was 'probably understated'.
Writing in the Washington Post, Glen Kessler analyses Mr King's claims and finds that they are totally unsupported by any evidence. He says 'King's claim about valedictorians and smugglers is a nonsense fact, designed to suggest an aura of authenticity to an otherwise objectionable statement. It appears King heard something, from someone he has not named, and had blown it into "facts" for which he feels little need to provide evidence'.
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