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Harkin Hopes to Send Message with Immigration Forum in King's District

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CEDAR RAPIDS It's not about Rep. Steve King, Sen. Tom Harkin insists, but his immigration forum Aug. 2 in the western Iowa Republican's district is intended to send a message.

"I'm not trying to make hay of Mr. King's egregious remarks," Harkin told reporters Thursday morning, "but we want to demonstrate that Rep. King doesn't speak for all Iowans."

Harkin wants to show the country that Iowans "are a gentler, kinder state than it might appear" based on King's comments that for every young person who entered this country illegally who goes on to be valedictorian, there are 100 who are drug couriers, as evidenced by their cantaloupe-sized calf muscles.

Harkin and fellow Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the original author of the DREAM Act and one of the members of the "Gang of Eight" senators who wrote the Senate immigration bill, will have a public forum on the immigration at 10 a.m. Friday at Ames Middle School.

Harkin made his comments a day after his Republican colleague Sen. Chuck Grassley warned against making the immigration debate about King.

"If this becomes a debate about one person we probably won't end up with any immigration law at all," Grassley said.

"The forum is not about Steve King," Harkin countered. He and Durbin will hear from leaders in business, labor, law enforcement and religious communities.

"It's to make the broad case for immigration reform and the DREAM Act," Harkin said. "To the extent that it is in Steve King's district, so be it.

"I think Congressman King has to understand that he does not speak for the broad cross-section of Iowans in some of the terrible things he said."

King, who was attending the funeral for Medal of Honor winner Col. George E. "Bud" Day, a Sioux City native, chose not to respond to Harkin's comments.while the "flags are flying at half staff for America's most decorated hero."

"There will be time after the last notes of taps echo off the bluffs," King said.

Harkin said that he and Durbin want to hear from young people and others about what the Dream Act would mean to them, especially as it relates to problems they face getting into college.

The DREAM Act would provide undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children with a path to citizenship if they met certain requirements. They would have to have entered the U.S before the age of 16, lived in the U.S. for five years, be in school or have graduated high school and not have been convicted of any serious crimes.

One of the immediate benefits of the Dream Act would be for those young immigrants to be able to attend college in the U.S. and apply for higher education assistance.

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