During a town hall meeting on Monday, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, likened American "legal" immigration to the process of selecting a "good bird dog."
“You want a good bird dog? You want one that’s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that’s the friskiest, the one that’s engaged the most and not the one that’s over there sleeping in the corner,” King said, referencing the Labradors he has at his home.
“You get the pick of the litter and you got yourself a pretty good bird dog. Well, we’ve got the pick of every donor civilization on the planet,” he added. "It's hard to get here, they had to be inspired to come -- we've got the vigor from the planet to come to America."
The point seemed to be that the U.S. historically has attracted the "pick of the litter," the very best immigrants with the drive to succeed in America.
While his comments may have been good intentioned, the metaphor is sure to infuriate liberal groups and civil rights activists who argue the GOP wants to disenfranchise illegal immigrants. The liberal research group American Bridge was able to capture King's comments on tape:
King's Democratic opponent in this fall's election, Christie Vilsack, took the opportunity to dog King and released a statement in response to his comments.
"If we’re going to have a real discussion on immigration, we should start by acknowledging that immigrants are human beings," the Vilsack campaign said in a statement.
"Iowans are taught in their community, in their church, and at the dinner table to respect each other, not to compare people to dogs. People expect a serious discussion between candidates and that’s what we’re committed to."
King is an outspoken critic of illegal immigration and President Obama's border policy and has been known in the past to make controversial statements on the subject. Some have blasted him for a 2011 defense of Arizona's immigration law where he referenced "shoes" as an "indicator" police use in determining whether someone is suspicious: