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Navarrette: GOP needs to condemn racist comments

  • Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaking during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. (J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE / Associated Press)

A few months ago, during an interview on a conservative talk radio station in the Central Valley, the host asked me what Republicans could do to reach out to Hispanic voters.

I think he was afraid I was going to propose something radical such as the GOP coming out in favor of open borders, or proposing a mass amnesty for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Nothing so ambitious.

“Start with this,” I said. “You've got to loudly condemn Republican lawmakers like Rep. Steve King of Iowa the next time he says something stupid, hateful or racist.”

Guess what? It's the next time.

I had been thinking that day about King's comments on the House floor in July 2006 about how we ought to run electrical wire along the U.S.-Mexico border because, back on the farm, “we do that with livestock all the time.”

I was also aware that he favors limits on even legal immigration, and that he likes using the offensive term “anchor babies” to describe the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

What the late George Wallace was to African-Americans, that's what King is to Hispanics. The congressman is either a racist or just an opportunist who panders to racists. Take your pick. Either way, it seems that King just doesn't like Hispanics, and I assure you that the feeling is entirely mutual.

Now King has really gone off the deep end, so much so that the leaders of his own party are trying to distance themselves from the Iowa lawmaker. They haven't been hard enough on him, in my book. But they've been more critical than they ever were before.

You'll see why in a moment.

With Republicans poised to introduce their own version of the DREAM Act to allow undocumented young people who were brought to the United States by their parents to achieve a path to citizenship, King recently suggested that — contrary to the popular image of undocumented students who study hard and become class valedictorian — young illegal immigrants from Mexico are much more likely to enter the country as mules for drug smugglers.

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