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The GOP Tries to Move Beyond Cantaloupes on Immigration

07/31/2013 04:08 pm ET | Updated Sep 30, 2013

Last week Rep. Steve King of Iowa made headlines when Right Wing Watch reported that he had smeared the vast majority of undocumented immigrants as drug runners with "calves the size of cantaloupes" from "hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert." After well-deserved criticism from both his own party's leadership and the White House, King defiantly stood by his remarks, claiming that he is the one being unfairly attacked. On the House floor, King cried, "I challenge this civilization to be reasonable!"

Good idea, Representative King. Let's be reasonable.

And what exactly does a "reasonable" stance on immigration look like? One place we might look for clues is in the views of the majority of our country. There's no question that fixing our broken immigration system is the right thing to do, but it is also the politically popular thing to do. A Gallup poll released this month found that 88 percent of Americans support creating a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including 83 percent of conservatives. A large majority (71 percent) say it is either "very" or "extremely" important that Congress pass new laws to reform our immigration system. Americans of all political stripes are on board with creating common-sense immigration laws.

Even prominent Republican donors are urging House GOP members to act on immigration. A letter sent Tuesday to Republican members of Congress, signed by the likes of Karl Rove and former vice president Dan Quayle, notes, "Standing in the way of reform ensures that we perpetuate a broken system that stifles our economy... and risk a long-lasting perception that Republicans would rather see nothing done than pass needed reform."

A long-lasting perception, indeed -- one that isn't helped by the incendiary remarks of far-right GOP leaders like Rep. King, who, in addition to his most recent comments, has also compared immigrants to dogs. And King's comments are only some examples from a whole wing of the GOP dead set against needed reform and downright offensive in their rhetoric. Just last week remarks surfaced of Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli comparing immigration policy to rat extermination. And Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has campaigned hard against immigration reform, calling it "a crock."

But that's not the only path possible for the party. Big name Republicans and everyday Americans alike are giving GOP House members a choice: Stand with common sense, majority opinion, and justice by supporting urgently-needed immigration reform, or give in to the voices of extremism who think immigrants are rodents and cantaloupe-calved drug runners.

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