The ever-growing divide amongst Republicans on immigration reform widened a bit over the weekend when Republican strategist Ana Navarro confronted Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) over inflammatory remarks he had made about illegal immigrants serving as drug mules. King attacked pending legislation known as the DREAM Act, which would create a pathway to citizenship for those brought to the United States illegally while they were underage.
Known for his firm stance against illegal immigration and a pathway toward naturalization, King has often been touted by the media as a standard bearer for the Republican viewpoint on immigration reform. But his heated confrontation with Navarro this weekend shows that a moderate flank of the party is alive and thriving.
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King outraged Republicans and Democrats alike in July when he said that for every valedictorian that becomes naturalized under the DREAM Act "there's another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and [that have] got calves the size of cantaloupes because they are hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert." King continued by saying that "the law would legalize both valedictorians and the weed-lifters" and that the latter group "[undermines] our culture and civilization."
The controversy over the congressman's comments resurfaced this weekend, when GOP strategist Ana Navarro confronted him on NBC's Meet the Press. Host David Gregory pressed King on his comments, asking him where he found the number he was cultivating his opinions from. King responded by saying that the process to legalization would include many involved in the drug trade and would be contradictory to the true intention of the DREAM Act.
Gregory then turned to Navarro who slammed King, calling him a "mediocre congressman with no legislative record" and added that he "only makes national press when he comes out and says something offensive about the undocumented or Hispanics." Navarro went on to say that the Republican Party can no longer stand for the tactics of individual members like King and that they were, in a way, good for the GOP because they gave more recognizable leaders a chance to publicly speak out against such rhetoric.
Navarro's words, while pointed, depict what the backbone of the GOP believes: that inflammatory sound bites for the media will not solve the problem of illegal immigration. While the press chooses to endlessly harp on King's comments, Navarro has proven that he remains a fringe member of the party, and that centrist opinions within the GOP can, and will, prevail on the topic of immigration reform.