Okoboji, Iowa (CNN) – Republican Rep. Steve King was confronted Monday night at his own fundraiser by an undocumented immigrant and activist who argued with the Iowa congressman over his stance on immigration.
Erika Andiola, who’s involved with the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, mostly took issue with King’s vote last week to curb the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows certain young people - who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children - to delay deportation.
House Republicans argue the policy, enacted under President Barack Obama's administration, has helped spur the crisis in which more than 60,000 children from Central America have fled to the U.S.-Mexico border this year.
Andiola introduced herself as a beneficiary of DACA as King was eating dinner at the fundraiser, which took place at an open restaurant in Okoboji, Iowa. She was joined by another migrant, Cesar Vargas.
“I know you really want to get rid of DACA, so I just wanted to give you the opportunity and rip mine,” Andiola said, handing King a piece of paper.
The congressman studied the paper and stood up, saying, “This is not what I do.”
The two then entered a lengthy back-and-forth with both talking over each other repeatedly. In the exchange, King defended his 2013 controversial comments about undocumented immigrants having “calves the size of cantaloupes.”
“I spoke of drug smugglers,” he told Andiola. “Now you’re not here to tell me you’re one of them, are you?”
Andiola said she came to the country from Mexico with her mother when she was 11 and has lived in the U.S. for 17 years. She said her mother was escaping an abusive relationship, and they already had family in the U.S., so they came across the border.
Her mom had applied to get into the U.S. legally but was denied, she said.
“And so it’s OK then to violate the law?” King answered back.
“I’m really sorry that you come from a lawless country,” he later added. “I hope that you can have a happy life. But please, do not erode the rule of law in America.”
King traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas recently with fellow Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann. In his speech at the fundraiser, he recalled a moment when the two lawmakers went to the southern tip of the state and planted an American flag for people to see from the Mexico side. They then rode off in their rental car playing “very patriotic” country music by Toby Keith, he said.
“It just felt good to be a strong American,” he told reporters.
For her part, Andiola told the media that she was in Iowa for work and saw that King was holding the fundraiser, with a guest appearance by Sen. Rand Paul (who was escorted away during the confrontation for an interview.)
She’s been working to raise awareness about the issue since she got her deferral and worked last year in Congress for Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, she said.
“We’re trying the best way possible to be accepted by this community…to be able to work here, to become Americans. A lot of us grew up as Americans but we’re not accepted as one,” Andiola said.
The DREAM Action Coalition later released the full exchange on YouTube.
King argued Andiola and Vargas simply came “to create a scene.”
“And I decided early in the conversation that I was not going to walk away,” he told reporters. “They’re here demanding that we change the laws…Why would you want to bring lawlessness to the United States of America? And that’s the question they cannot answer. Why would we want to turn America into a third world country?”
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