Most House Republicans are opting not to respond to Donald Trump's remarks that Muslim immigrants should be barred from entering into the United States. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is not among them , but he wouldn't say whether he agrees with his party's presidential frontrunner.
King told reporters he is "appreciative" that the 2016 Republican presidential front-runner "has given some of us a little more room to operate." One of Congress' most vocal and unapologetic opponents of comprehensive immigration reform legislation, King said Trump "has triggered ... discussion" about what policies the government should enact to keep the United States safe.
"We have a constitutional right to determine who comes to America. And we can set that on any criteria we want from a constitutional perspective so let's have a debate on who we protect," he said. "I've long said we need an immigration policy designed to enhance the economic, the social and the cultural wellbeing of the United States of America. So let's have the debate about that."
"We've seen some horrible things happen in America and in Europe and I've been there to see that. I traveled over into Iraq, Erbil — the Kurdish region — up against the ISIS lines as far as I can get. I went into Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, and then I want up to Sweden ... where their immigration is on a per capita triple that of the United States. I've seen what happens to the culture there. I see now Norwegians are talking about paying Middle Easterners — buying them a plane ticket, and paying them cash to go back home again. So Europe is ahead of us and we should look there and see what's happening and see what could happen to America if we continue what trend we're on."While suggesting that he does agree with Trump's position, King insisted he was not making an endorsement one way or another.
"I haven't commented on whether I think that's a good idea or not and I think it's better if the American people get to have that dialogue," he said, "but I want a safe country and I want to be able to shape the immigration policy so it enhances the economic, social and cultural well being of the United States for the long term, for our progeny."
King is endorsing Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for president. Cruz said later on Tuesday of Trump's comments that he does "disagree with that proposal."
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.