Lawmaker's Comment On Illegal Immigrants Sparks Controversy

By: Stephanie Diffin Email
By: Stephanie Diffin Email

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March 15, 2011

UPDATE

Outrage and apologies follow a Kansas lawmaker's comment about treating illegal immigrants the same way the state hunts feral hogs. The man behind the controversial comment is now saying he's sorry, but some say it's not enough.

State Rep. Virgil Peck (R-Tyro) made the comment during an appropriations committee meeting yesterday. The committee was discussing funding for controlling wild hogs, by shooting them. That's when Peck compared the hog problem, to illegal immigration.

"Looks like to me if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a [solution] to our illegal immigration problem," said Peck during the meeting.

Now, the comment has made its way from the statehouse to the streets and it's sparking outrage, especially within the local Hispanic community.

"We come here to the U.S. for the American dream, and when somebody in a way compares us to swine, that's not only unacceptable but that's just incredible that someone would have a mind to even think of that, or think of us as that," said Wichita Hispanic Chamber of Commerce member Maria Gonzalez.

Even legislators who share the same party as republican Rep. Peck say they agree, the comment was unacceptable. Some of them, who represent Peck's same region in Kansas signed a resolution denouncing the comment after Peck told reporters he was speaking "like a Southeast Kansas person." The chair of the House Appropriations Committee also says he reprimanded Peck right after the comment was made.

"We all have to be mindful of what we say and how we say it, and this clearly wasn't appropriate," said Republican Rep. Marc Rhoades of Newton.

KAKE News tried contacting Rep. Peck's office multiple times, but never received an answer or call back. He did release a written apology to other state representatives saying, "My statements yesterday were regrettable. Please accept my apology." He also told reporters he was joking after making the comment yesterday.

"I don't think it's a laughing matter. I don't think violence, any encouragement of violence against human beings is a laughing matter," said Kari Ann Rinker of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party.

It's a feeling echoed by those who believe they were target to the comment their state lawmaker made.

"I honestly cannot stress enough how bad it is that someone would even think that. I mean we're humans, we're not animals," said Gonzalez.

Peck's written response today came after Gov. Sam Brownback asked him to apologize. But the Sedgwick County Democratic Party says an apology isn't enough. Instead, it's calling for his resignation.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

A Kansas lawmaker's remark on hunting feral swine drew gasps when he compared it to illegal immigrants.

The House Appropriations Committee was debating Monday how best to control feral swine in Kansas.

Rep. Virgil Peck said: "Looks like to me, if shooting these
immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to
our illegal immigration problem."

His comment drew gasps from members in the audience and
lawmakers.

Peck told the Lawrence Journal-World after the hearing
that his constituents are upset with illegal immigration. He said
he expects no further controversy over the comment.

But on Tuesday, he issued a brief apology.

--Southeast Kansas legislators denounce comment;

Yesterday in the Kansas House Appropriations Committee, during a discussion of methods used to exterminate feral swine (which include shooting them from a helicopter), Rep. Virgil Peck (R- Tyro) suggested that Kansas use the same approach as a solution to our state’s immigration problems.

“It looks like to me if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works maybe we have found a [solution] to our illegal immigration problem,” said Peck.

Peck was approached by Statehouse press after the committee meeting. He was unapologetic and said he was “just joking.”

His remark has garnered outrage in media outlets across the country

"I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person," Peck said to the Lawrence Journal Word.

Peck’s defense of his statement angered local legislators as much as the comment itself.

“As a lifelong ‘southeast Kansas person,’ I was completely offended by Rep. Peck’s inappropriate comments,” said Bob Grant (D-Columbus). “With our rich coal mining history, Southeast Kansas is the melting pot of our state. I have no intention of letting Rep. Peck brand me with his own extremist views just because I live in the same region.”

In response, southeast Kansas legislators signed a statement denouncing Peck’s behavior.

“We want to make it absolutely clear to the people of Southeast Kansas that we absolutely do not share Rep. Peck’s point of view,” said Rep. Doug Gatewood (D-Cherokee).

--LULAC reaction to the statement;

The League of United Latin American Citizens is calling upon Kansas State Representative Virgil Peck to resign from his position immediately for viciously suggesting that the State of Kansas begin shooting undocumented immigrants from helicopters just as they do with feral hogs.

Yesterday, during a discussion in the Kansas House Appropriations Committee about eliminating feral hogs, Representative Peck (R- Tyro) made the following statement on the record, “It looks like to me that if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works maybe we have found a solution to our illegal immigration problem.”

“Representative Peck’s comments about shooting immigrants and likening them to hogs are an outrageous dehumanization of hardworking Kansas residents,” stated Margaret Moran, LULAC National President. “His despicable comments set a new low in the hostile and xenophobic political attacks against America’s immigrant communities.”

LULAC is calling upon Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to repudiate Peck’s shocking comments and is demanding that the Kansas Republican Party disassociate itself from the lawmaker’s views.

“Many of us were concerned that the bi-partisan commitment to tone down the violent political rhetoric after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords might not last,” stated Brent Wilkes, LULAC National Executive Director. “None could have predicted that it would end with such brutal and disgraceful words from an elected official targeting the most vulnerable population in our country.”

LULAC believes that dehumanizing language used by anti-immigrant legislators is in large part responsible for the drastic increase in hate crimes being committed against Latinos and immigrant communities. “When a politician speaks of shooting immigrants, even if supposedly done as a joke, the message sent to his or her constituents is that actual violence against immigrants is condoned by their government,” stated Margaret Moran.


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