The border fence between the United States and Mexico creates a shadow pattern on a street in Nogalas, Arizona. UPI /Art Foxall | License Photo
WASHINGTON, July 25 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Thursday defended a claim most people crossing the U.S. border from Mexico are drug runners, saying it happens "every night."
In a speech on the House floor, King defended a comment made earlier in the week that "for [every immigrant] who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds -- and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."
When he made the comment initially, King said "those people would be legalized" by immigration reform under consideration in Congress.
The observation drew a sharp rebuke from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who called it "deeply offensive and wrong," and said it would complicate congressional efforts to pass immigration reform.
In a House speech Thursday, King said: "Eighty [percent] to 90 percent of the illegal drugs consumed in America come from or through Mexico. I can tell you that in Mexico they are recruiting kids to be drug smugglers, between the ages of 11 and 18."
He said Mexico jails about 800 children annually for drug trafficking, The Hill reported.
"Every night, some come across the border, smuggling drugs across the border," he said.
A group of young immigration advocates -- including Maricela Aguilar, 22, an undocumented immigrant who lives in Wisconsin -- delivered cantaloupes to King's Capitol Hill office Thursday, The Hill said.
"Today we wanted to talk to the congressman to tell him that the comments he is making are unacceptable, that our legs are not the size of cantaloupes, that even if they are, we are not drug runners, that we are here as students and he needs to stop making these comments," Aguilar said.
King's staff took delivery of the cantaloupes but said he was not available to meet with the young immigrants, the report said.