WASHINGTON — Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a conservative firebrand with a history of making incendiary remarks about immigrants and culture, said Wednesday that President Donald Trump's decision to wind down DACA will give undocumented immigrants a choice to either "live in the shadows" or face deportation.
"They came here to live in the shadows and we're not denying them that opportunity to live in the shadows," King told NBC News when asked about where immigrants would go after their authorizations under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program expire.
When pressed on his statement, King said, "They should make up their own mind, but they also need to be exposed to the enforcement of the law."
"If they're encountered by law enforcement officials, the law requires that they'd be placed in removal proceedings," King added. "That's the law and if you're going to waive the application of the law, to groups of people, it is amnesty and amnesty in America, with regard to immigration, is a reward for immigration lawbreakers and is a pardon for immigration lawbreakers coupled with their reward of the objective of their crime."
King's comments came just a day after Trump's Justice Department announced it was ending DACA, the Obama-era program that allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the country, while also giving Congress a six-month window to possibly save the policy.
Trump said that the six-month delay would give Congress "a window of opportunity ... to finally act."
Trump was widely criticized by Democrats and some Republicans for the move, but told reporters Wednesday he had "no second thoughts" about his decision.
King, however, signaled on Wednesday that the six-month window would more likely "divide" the GOP "in a sharp and a hard way," and that the only way to avoid that split would be to let DACA lapse.
In the past, King's remarks about immigrants and immigration have drawn criticism even from those within his own party.
In March, he retweeted praise for a far-right European politician, lauding him for understanding "that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies."
The following day, he said he "meant exactly what I said."
"You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else's babies. You've got to keep your birth rate up and that you need to teach your children your values and in doing so, then you can grow your population and you can strengthen your culture, you can strengthen your way of life," King said.
During a panel discussion on MSNBC last July, he said that white people had contributed more to civilization than other "subgroups," before later clarifying that he meant "Western civilization."
Kasie Hunt reported from Washington, and Adam Edelman from New York.