Undocumented activists confronted Republican congressional members Steve King and Rand Paul about immigration while the lawmakers were eating at a political event in Iowa on Monday.
The activists, part of a movement seeking a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors, shook hands with the lawmakers before identifying themselves, according to published reports.
Paul, who is in the U.S. Senate and is from Kentucky, walked away after the youths identified themselves. King remained, engaging in a tense exchange with the immigrants.
King, of Iowa, is the leading immigration hardliner in the House. On Friday, House Republicans passed legislation to address the crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border by sending migrant youths back home without hearings, winning over conservatives with a companion bill that could lead to deporting more than half a million immigrants whom the Obama administration granted temporary work permits.
Tea party lawmakers backed the bill that ultimately passed after it was altered to include a measure to shut off the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants work permits to immigrants brought here illegally as kids.
A second bill also seemed designed to prevent the more than 700,000 people who've already gotten work permits under the program from renewing them, ultimately making them subject to deportation.
Such immigrants are known as Dreamers.
Erika Andiola, one of the Dreamers who approached King, took him to task for being a force behind the effort to kill DACA.
She said to him: “If you really believe in deporting Dreamers like myself, here is my DACA so you can rip it.”
“Erika joined Iowa Dreamers to help remind Rep. King that Dreamers are not afraid to defend DACA so President Obama shouldn’t be afraid to take executive action,” said a statement by DRM Capitol, which advocates for Dreamers. “Senator Rand Paul ran away as soon as the immigration discussion began … the Kentucky Senator voted against immigration reform and is trying to repair his image with Latino voters. With Rep. Steve King as an ally, Latino voters will be suspicious of Sen. Paul's position in immigration.”
King pointed at Andiola and said: “Stop a minute. You’re very good at English. You know what I’m saying.”
Andiola says she was raised in the United States, trying to explain why she speaks English fluently.
The brief conversation then seemed to turn to a comment King made last year about Dreamers being drug smugglers.
“I spoke of drug smugglers. Now, you’re not going to tell me you’re one of them, are you?” King asked, adding that he was referring to just people involved in drugs.
“Do I look like a drug smuggler to you?” Andiola responded.
“You can tell me,” the congressman said.
King said that he was against Obama acting unilaterally on immigration, as the president did in regards to DACA.
“I’m not a drug smuggler, of course not. I graduated from Arizona State University. I have my master’s degree,” Endiola said.
King told Endiola that the “liberal left” was using Dreamers as pawns. Endiola said that both parties have used Dreamers for their own agendas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.