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Let's deport Rep. Steve King

By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
updated 7:19 AM EDT, Fri July 26, 2013
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.

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