Iowa Representative Steve King’s recent comments on immigration and the DREAM Act are not just inflammatory rhetoric, but an acute sign of the GOP’s problem with immigration policy in general.
While the comments have already been called “beneath the dignity” of the House of Representatives and have sparked Internet outrage, there’s a deeper analysis to be had here. The GOP can both improve its image and actually be a more legitimate player at negotiating immigration reform if they avoid King’s mistakes.
The comments were offered during an interview with Newsmax where King stated, "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. 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.”
With blatantly inflammatory language like this, it’s not surprising that King has come under heat from Hispanic lawmakers and constituents. Simply insinuating that undocumented immigrants have “cantaloupe” sized calves from drug smuggling is not only an unwarranted physical characterization, but also a gross generalization. Yes, King has lost the surface debate with these comments, but stopping this isn’t going to solve the real problem.
Let’s break down the logic in King’s argument. There is no data to suggest the rate of drug smugglers per valedictorian, nor anything remotely conclusive about the weight of said smugglers or the amount of drugs carried across. Yet, there is a kernel of logic, which is seriously distorted and drowned in general absurdity. Look at valedictorians.
By framing his arguments as valedictorians versus drug traffickers, King is going for a slam-dunk assumption. There are many occupations and stations in life that outnumber the small and elite demographic that are valedictorians, and even more for undocumented valedictorians who would be naturalized under the DREAM Act.
What about the other students that would be naturalized with the DREAM act? That’s an entire demographic ignored by King’s comments. Even in King’s kooky logic, he ignores any possible ratio of students to drug traffickers. Even worse, it could be insinuated that you have to be the top of the class to be justified in the DREAM Act.
This faulty logic wrapped in offensive rhetoric goes beyond King, and sours the image of the GOP amongst Hispanic and other minority demographics. In debating immigration reform, the GOP continues to lose its legitimacy. Had King noted concerns such as ratios based on actual data, margins of error, government bureaucracy, and even the important problem of potential large-scale fraud, he might have raised points that would be worked out in House debate. However, King has simply offended many people.
It’s time for the GOP to make serious argumentation if we want serious debate on immigration, let alone the American voters to take the GOP seriously.