GOP Rep. Steve King, flaunting his immigration policy chops:

According to Rep. Steve King’s math, legalizing undocumented immigrants is untenable because for every valedictorian DREAMer — immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — there are 100 more who are carrying drugs across the border.

“Some of them are valedictorians, and their parents brought them in,” King told Newsmax in an interview last week. “It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents.”

“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,” he continued. “Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

Democrats, of course, are jumping on these comments, but Dems are not the only ones who say such outbursts risk damaging the GOP. Karl Rove, a proponent of reform, recently instructed members of his party to tread carefully in the immigration debate: “Republicans must consider the impressions they will create by what they say.” These days, when it comes to the debate over how important Latino outreach should be to the GOP’s future, Rove is just another liberal squish, so it’s not surprising his advice is going unheeded in some quarters.

But still, even some Republicans who may not end up supporting comprehensive reform are sensitive to the need to project a measure of compassion when it comes to the immigration debate. The House GOP leadership is moving to support the so-called “Kids Act,” which would provide a path to citizenship for children who were brought here illegally by their parents. Eric Cantor claims this is a matter of “decency” and “compassion,” but there are already signs the Hispanic media isn’t buying such pretty sentiments.

And however sincere such efforts are, comments like King’s could easily undo all that work and stain the GOP as a whole. A recent Latino Decisions poll found:

New polling results released today show clear evidence that Latino voters now believe that the anti-immigrant voices in the House are not isolated individuals but that many Republicans in Congress hold these views.  When hearing a quote from Republican Mo Brooks, “There is a surefire way to create jobs now for American citizens: evict all illegal aliens from America” 77% of Latino voters said it gives them a less favorable view of the overall Republican Party.  After hearing quotes from eight different House Republicans, 66% of Latino voters said the anti-immigrant quotes represent “many Republicans in Congress” compared to 27% who said they represent only a few isolated individuals.

So, yeah, it’s a great idea for House Republicans to delay this process all the way into the fall: It will give foes of immigration reform like King plenty of time to put their thoughts on the matter out there for public consumption.

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UPDATE: In an interview with me just now, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, who has been called the “Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media,” responded to King’s comments as follows:

“The vast majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are being considered to be legalized are not criminals or terrorists. It is a huge mistake to represent the Hispanic and immigrant community that way. At the end, they will decide who is going to be the next president in 2016. I really can’t understand why some members of the Republican Party would want to criticize the Hispanic community that way.

“There’s no question that the GOP has a huge immigrant problem. If it were only one Republican making comments like that, you could have argued it’s an isolated incident. But when you add that comment to others made by Joe Arpaio, Pete Wilson, Jan Brewer, then it becomes a huge problem for the party as a whole. There’s a perception that the party is not interested in getting the Hispanic vote and does not understand Latinos.”

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.