WASHINGTON – House Speaker John A. Boehner condemned what he called "deeply offensive" comments from one of his Republican colleagues, Rep. Steve King, who recently suggested that most young immigrants in the country illegally were drug smugglers.
"There's no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials," the Ohioan told reporters Thursday. "What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party. And we all need to do our work in a constructive, open and respectful way."
King, an outspoken critic of legislation that he believes would grant "amnesty" to individuals in the United States illegally, told the conservative publication Newsmax that he was opposed to a proposal under development by Republicans in the House that would offer a limited path to citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.
"For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another hundred 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," King said.
Boehner initially condemned those comments in a written statement earlier this week. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said Wednesday that King's comments were "irresponsible and reprehensible." He said that he thought if King thought more about it, "he wouldn't say such a thing again." Labrador also admonished the media for focusing on King's remarks while ignoring more positive comments on the subject from other Republicans.
But King defended his remarks in an interview on CNN on Wednesday night.
"I think it's important that the people in Congress are able to objectively look at the data that's out there, the real facts and know that 80% to 90% of the illegal drugs that come into America come from or through Mexico and the people that are carrying them are increasingly young people," he said.
Boehner's remarks on King on Thursday opened his weekly televised news conference.
"We don't need to make this job more difficult," he said of King. "We've got a broken legal immigration system, and we got the problem of those who are here undocumented that ought to be dealt with as well. And it does make it more difficult, but I'm going to continue to work with members who want to get to a solution, as opposed to those who want to do nothing."