Rep. Steve King Says Asking Hospital Patients Their Immigration Status Would Not Be Going ‘Too Far’

ThinkProgress filed this report from the Values Voters bus tour in Waukee, Iowa.

Portions of the nation’s most harmful immigration law went into effect last month in Alabama, causing widespread fear and panic among the state’s Latino population. It requires school officials to verify students’ immigration status, prompting thousands of frightened Latino students not to show up for school. The new law even makes it a felony for utility companies to provide water in undocumented immigrants’ homes.

ThinkProgress spoke with one of the leading anti-immigration voices in the House GOP, Rep. Steve King (R-IA), yesterday in Iowa to get his take on Alabama’s law. King brushed aside concern that the law may go too far, arguing instead that police officers ought to “see somebody on the street and say, ‘Why are you here? What are you doing? Who are you? I don’t know who you are.'” When we asked whether forcing hospital patients to prove their immigration status would cross the line, King disagreed, stating, “I don’t know why that would be too far.”

KEYES: Do you think that Alabama went too far in terms of asking schoolchildren their immigration status or having utility companies be able to shut off water to families if they don’t provide their immigration status?

KING: […] Going too far to ask someone about their status? Whether they can be legally or illegally in the United States? Not in the world I grew up in. In the world I grew up in, a police officer would see somebody on the street and say, “Why are you here? What are you doing? Who are you? I don’t know who you are.” […]

KEYES: Is there anything you think that could be too far, like asking people in the hospital about their immigration status?

KING: I don’t know why that would be too far. It depends on who is doing the asking. But I have walked through the hospitals down along the border, and I know what goes on. Tucson University Hospital, for example, is the most southerly trauma center in Arizona. The reason for that is all the rest of them had to close because they’ve been required to provide free medical care to people who are in the United States illegally.

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In his eight years in Congress, King has amassed a long record of castigating immigrants and Latinos in general. Last year, he declared that Rep. Raúl Grijalva’s (D-AZ) southern Arizona district may have been “ceded…to Mexico.” Prior to that, King called immigration a “slow-motion Holocaust.” And while discussing a border fence on the House floor in 2006, King proposed electrifying it, noting that “we do this with livestock all the time.”