Immigration advocates deliver cantaloupes to House GOP lawmakers

August 1, 2013

Updated 11:18 a.m.

The House is leaving Washington for a five-week recess without holding votes on any legislation regarding immigration reform, but not before hundreds of lawmakers received a fruity parting gift.

Responding to recent comments by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) -- arguably the most outspoken GOP critic of immigration reform -- activists delivered cantaloupes Thursday to the offices of the 224 lawmakers who recently voted in favor of King's proposal that would force the Obama administration to resume the deportations of children of illegal immigrants.

King's proposal was successfully added to a Homeland Security appropriations bill in June when 221 Republicans and three Democrats voted in favor of it.

More recently, King has earned the ire of Republicans, Democrats and immigrant advocates for suggesting that undocumented immigrants will never be legalized because of the high number of undocumented immigrants who carry drugs across the border.

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King said in a recent interview with the conservative news site Newsmax. “Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

King's comments inspired some Hispanics to photograph their calves and use social media to disprove King's assertions. Now they're bringing their concerns to Capitol Hill.

Activists affiliated with United Farm Workers, United We Stand and America's Voice began delivering the cantaloupes Thursday morning, fanning out across House office buildings. Each piece of fruit was affixed with a placard that read, “This cantaloupe was picked by immigrant hands in California. You gave Steve King a vote. Give us a vote for citizenship.”

Amanda Moreno, 23, of Arlington, immigrated with her parents from Honduras when she was 15. “Today is a critical day, it’s the day before they go out on recess, and they need to know that when they get back, we’re going to be pressuring them, and it has to be done, and it has to be done before November," she said.

Moreno walked the halls of the Cannon House Office Building Thursday morning with Jose Diaz, 20, who lives in Connecticut and immigrated with his parents from Mexico when he was 10, and Emilio Vicente, 21, who lives in North Carolina and came to the United States with his parents from Guatemala when he was 6 years old.

Vicente said he came to Washington "to remind them [Republicans] that a lot of us are listening to what they’re saying, it is offensive, and we’re not just willing to stand by and let them talk about us and our families and that we will speak out."

Moreno, Diaz and Vicente and the three groups they worked with Thursday also are partnering with dozens of smaller regional organizations over the course of the five-week summer recess to target dozens of House Republicans in hopes of convincing them to support immigration reform legislation when the House reconvenes in September.

House Republican leaders have not yet scheduled any votes on immigration legislation, but are expected to call a vote first on a bipartisan border security measure at some point either in September or October.

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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