House immigration Hawk Steve King, R-Iowa, argued in a colorful interview that the nation's unauthorized immigrants should not be legalized because some of them are drug mules.
King said in an interview last week with Newsmax that he does not buy the argument that unauthorized immigrants are often stellar students who were brought to the country illegally through no fault of their own.
"It's true in some cases," he said. "But for every one who is a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they have calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."
King added, "Those people would be legalized with the same act."
The tea party conservative said he doesn't believe it's possible to distinguish between immigrants who are criminals and those who are not, so he will not accept an immigration reform bill that legalizes anyone. (Studies suggest that first generation immigrants, regardless of their legal status, are less likely to commit crimes than third generation Americans.)
King's comments represent one faction of the Republican-led House of Representatives, whose leadership so far has refused to vote on the Senate's sweeping immigration reform bill that would legalize most of the unauthorized immigrant population in the country, provided they pay fines and pass a criminal background check.
Some House Republicans have said they approve of providing a pathway to citizenship for young unauthorized immigrants who came to the country as children — commonly referred to as "Dreamers" — but that legalizing their parents is a bridge too far. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee debated legalizing these young people through a smaller bill, tentatively titled the Kids Act, instead of a broader legalization effort. Immigrant activist groups representing young Dreamers say they will not accept an immigration reform bill that legalizes them but leaves out their parents.