Kansas lawmaker apologizes for immigrant remark
March 15, 2011 at 11:04 a.m.
Updated March 14, 2011 at 10:15 p.m.
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Republican lawmaker in Kansas apologized Tuesday for remarks suggesting that illegal immigrants should be shot like feral swine, but his statement didn't quiet the furor over what he said was a "regrettable" joke.
The League of United Latin American Citizens' national office in Washington described the comments from state Rep. Virgil Peck, of Tyro, as "despicable" and called upon him to resign. And U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat who is chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said such remarks "have no place in our national discourse."
Leaders of the Kansas House's Republican majority called the remarks inappropriate but said they accepted Peck's apology and were confident such a lapse in judgment will not occur again. The leaders' statement suggested they weren't planning disciplinary action, but Speaker Mike O'Neal declined to comment further.
Asked whether he intended to resign, Peck said: "Nope."
Peck made his comments during a Monday meeting of the House Appropriations Committee as it discussed whether the state should try to control the wild hog population by using gunmen in helicopters.
He said, "If shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem."
His comment drew gasps from the audience and committee members, but after the meeting, he told the Lawrence Journal-World that he was "speaking like a southeast Kansas person," adding that his constituents are frustrated with illegal immigration.
On Tuesday, other southeast Kansas legislators demanded a public apology. Also, Gov. Sam Brownback, a fellow Republican, called the remark "completely inappropriate," according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.
Peck issued a statement: "My statements yesterday were regrettable. Please accept my apology."
But another southeast Kansas legislator, Rep. Bob Grant, a Cherokee Democrat, said Peck needs to do more than issue a brief statement to fellow legislators and reporters.
"The one-line apology doesn't cut it," Grant said. "There were other people at the Appropriations meeting, and I think he needs to apologize to everybody."
It was the second time in a month that a Republican House member has apologized for a remark touching on immigration issues.
In February, Rep. Connie O'Brien, of Tonganoxie, faced criticism for a story she told during a committee hearing about enrolling her son at a community college and observing another student who couldn't produce a driver's license or other government identification. O'Brien said she could tell the woman wasn't from the U.S., noting her "olive complexion."
O'Brien was discussing a bill to repeal a state law allowing some illegal immigrants to pay the lower tuition charged Kansas residents. She apologized and promised to be more careful with her words in the future.