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Rep. Don Young (R-AK) Refers to Immigrants as Wetbacks; "I Meant No Disrespect"

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don youngUpdate: Young has issued a full apology:

“I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska. There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words. That word, and the negative attitudes that come with it, should be left in the 20th century, and I’m sorry that this has shifted our focus away from comprehensive immigration reform.”

Update: Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is throwing down the hammer on Young’s comment:

“Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds,” Boehner said. “I don’t care why he said it — there’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology.”

In the latest blow to GOP minority outreach, the big news of the day involves Rep. Don Young (R-AK), who referred to immigrants as “wetbacks” while speaking on a local radio station yesterday:

“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” Young, an Alaska Republican, told a local radio station in a story posted Thursday. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

Young has non-apologized since then, saying that the term “was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California” and that he “meant no disrespect.”

At New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait thinks “comments like Young’s are why immigration reform will probably pass.” He explained:

The fear of such a poisonous debate is the key strategic fact. Republicans would probably prefer to avoid any immigration-reform debate, and thus close off the risk that the Don Youngs of the party run their mouths. But the presidency offers Barack Obama the power to hold an immigration debate, and so Republicans can only choose between bad options.

An ugly debate and a rejected bill mean repeating and compounding the debacles of the recent past. But passing a bill gives Republicans a happy ending. There will be gaffes, but the final picture will be Republican leaders standing beside Obama in the Rose Garden, and the reform itself, rather than the debate, will be the lingering impression.

The uglier the debate, the more imperative it becomes that Republicans find a way to change the ending and prove that the Don Youngs don’t really speak for them.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), hardly a friend to immigration reform (in fact, we think he’s a hypocrite), took it upon himself to rebuke Young:

“Migrant workers come to America looking for opportunity and a way to provide a better life for their families,” Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a statement. “They do not come to this country to hear ethnic slurs and derogatory language from elected officials. The comments used by Rep. Young do nothing to elevate our party, political discourse or the millions who come here looking for economic opportunity.”

(Cornyn could elevate his party and the political discourse by playing a constructive role in the immigration debate instead of trying to stop it.)

Twitter is all over the story: