During a sparsely attended, Tea Party-sponsored, “Stop Amnesty” rally against immigration reform on Monday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) launched into a vicious tirade against individuals from Latin America, claiming that the population gets more violent as one moves further south in Latin America. He made the anti-immigration case that individuals from a “violent civilization” would create a more violent environment for individuals living in a “less-violent civilization.” His argument comes at a time when some House Republicans are softening their stance to providing a pathway to legal status for the millions of undocumented immigrants. About 73 percent of undocumented individuals in the United States are from Latin America.
At the rally, King said:
If you bring people from a violent civilization into a less-violent civilization, you’re going to have more violence right? It’s like pouring hot water into cold water, does it raise the temperature or not?
King’s characterization of undocumented immigrants as violent individuals is not only offensive, but geographically nonsensical. While some parts of Latin America like Ecuador and Honduras are seeing a rise in crime, King’s claim that individuals become more violent as one moves further south in Latin America is simply false. Chile, one of the largest southern countries in South America has a lower ratio of car theft, punitivity, homicide, and rape than the United States. And Costa Rica, which is further south of Honduras has a low homicide rate.
King’s reference to hot water diluting cold is the same kind of claim that white nativists have made in the past to “preserve” racial purity.
Recently, King has stood by other statements comparing immigrants to animals and even asked his constituents to make monetary contributions towards fending off attacks against people “who are trying to take away my voice.” King plans to join the Tea Party for other anti-immigrant rallies across the United States.
Before the August recess, the highest ranked House Republican John Boehner (R-OH) distanced himself from King saying, “There’s no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials…[the comments are] deeply offensive and wrong. What he said does not represent the values of the American people or the Republican party… they make it harder to get anything done.” Other House Republicans followed suit by condemning King’s comments. But high-ranking House Republicans have remained silent during the August recess regarding King’s latest claims.