Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Let's deport Rep. Steve King

By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
July 26, 2013 -- Updated 1119 GMT (1919 HKT)
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, sings the National Anthem as activists rally against the Senate's immigration legislation.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, sings the National Anthem as activists rally against the Senate's immigration legislation.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 8 Dreamers reentered U.S. and got caught, but U.S. doesn't know what to do with them
  • Rep. Steve King once proposed an electric fence on border, said "we do this with livestock"
  • He also said for each valedictorian Dreamer, 100 Dreamers are drug smugglers
  • Ruben Navarrette: Deported Dreamers a lot better for our society than Rep. King

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

San Diego, California (CNN) -- "Dreamers" always seem to find themselves in the eye of the storm, and that's where they are at the moment.

The term refers to those undocumented young people who -- if they attend college or join the military -- might have been eligible for legal status under the DREAM Act, which died an ugly death in the Senate in December 2010.

Dreamers were brought to the United States as children, and they are Americans in every way -- both good and bad. On the positive side, many of them recognize and cherish America's greatness. On the negative side, many of them are just as self-centered and entitled as many of our homegrown young people are.

This week, that dynamic played out again on the U.S.-Mexico border. A group of Dreamers who were born in Mexico and brought to the United States as children only to be deported back to Mexico tried to reenter the United States. It was as if they were saying to their adopted country, "You're not getting rid of us that easily."

You just don't see this kind of thing every day.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

It made for high drama on the border. Eight Dreamers who have been deported mustered up the chutzpah to march back into the United States across the Arizona-Mexico border only to be apprehended. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is trying to figure out what to do with these young people.

Meanwhile, at least one member of Congress seems intent on carrying on the American tradition of labeling immigrants as deficient, defective, defiant, and dangerous. Now, to that list, add drug-smuggling.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is known for his exaggerations and wild nativist outbursts. In July 2006, King suggested that the U.S. government electrify the fence on the U.S.-Mexico border because, back in Iowa, "we do this with livestock all the time."

Now King has really outdone himself. With Republicans poised to introduce their own version of the DREAM Act, he recently suggested that -- contrary to the popular image of undocumented students brought here by their parents who become class valedictorian -- young illegal immigrants are just as likely to enter the country as drug mules.

Rep King on immigration controversy

Specifically, King said this in an interview last week with conservative media outlet Newsmax about what he considers the appropriate ratio of valedictorian to smuggler:

"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."

This week, instead of apologizing, the acid-tongued lawmaker doubled down on those comments.

"It's not something that I'm making up," King told the host of an Iowa-based radio show. "This is real. We have people that are mules, that are drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they've been doing for months, going through the desert with 75 pounds of drugs on their back.

"And if those who advocate for the DREAM Act, if they choose to characterize this about valedictorians, I gave them a different image that we need to be thinking about because we just simply can't be passing legislation looking only at one component of what would be millions of people."

King's remarks are causing heartburn for GOP leaders who are trying to fix the party's unpopularity among Hispanic voters. This obviously doesn't help. They criticized his remarks, but they didn't take any action to punish him.

"There can be honest disagreements about policy without using hateful language," House Speaker John Boehner said in his statement. "Everyone needs to remember that."

Meanwhile, remember those eight Dreamers locked up in Arizona? Immigration officials seem unsure of what to do with them. They could send them back to Mexico, but the young people are almost certain to keep trying to reenter the United States. This is their home, and they want to go home. They're Americans all right -- stubborn, confident, determined, and not likely to give up when they think they're right.

I have a solution and a way to reconcile these two stories. It's all about usefulness, and who is likely to do the most good and make the greater contribution to this country.

Let's keep the kids -- and deport the congressman.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1626 GMT (0026 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 0105 GMT (0905 HKT)
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT