Kansas State Representative Virgil Peck might think he was being funny Monday, but to Hispanics everywhere his comments are no joke.
According to Tuesday's Lawrence World Journal, Peck told his state's House Appropriations Committee, "It might be a good idea to control illegal immigration the way the feral hog population has been controlled -- with hunters shooting from helicopters."
Such language has no place in civil discourse and should be condemned by his committee, his leadership, and the state legislature.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time a legislator has compared undocumented immigrants to animals or much worse. Terms like "illegals," "invasion," "aliens," "hunting them down," and "anchor babies" litter the immigration debate like confetti.
In April, Pat Bertroche, a physician running for Congress in Iowa, said in a campaign forum, "I actually support microchipping them. I can microchip my dog so I can find it. Why can't I microchip an illegal?" Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky called for building an electrified underground fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. And Tom Mullins, a Republican candidate for Congress in New Mexico, one-upped him by proposing to put down land mines.
But advocating for shooting humans from helicopters is far beyond unacceptable. Ironically, Peck's comment comes just days after NCLR launched its Pledge for Respect campaign. It appears it couldn't have come at a more timely moment.
When Representative Peck was asked about his comment, he said, "I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person." It is despicable that Peck would invoke his Kansan heritage to defend his remarks. I was born and raised in Kansas, and the people I grew up with are hardworking people with close-knit families, good neighbors, and people of strong faith. They do not think that hunting human beings is funny. Peck owes his constituents and my home state an apology.
Peck was also quoted as saying "I think it's over" and that he did not expect any more controversy over his comment. I beg to differ.
When political leaders suggest violence as a means to an end, even jokingly, their comments add to the public perception that such actions are acceptable. Peck doesn't think he did anything wrong. He needs to understand that this type of rhetoric has no place in public discourse. That's why we are also asking Mike O'Neal, Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives, to call for an apology and an end to this intolerance in the Kansas legislature.
We understand that our country is tired of federal inaction on immigration reform. But dehumanizing and scapegoating immigrants is not a solution. We look to our elected officials for solutions and expect them to behave like leaders. It's time that they start acting like it. Kansans, and the rest of America, deserve better.
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