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Bishop R Walker Nickless Pope Benedict XVI

Bishop R. Walker Nickless, of the Diocese of Sioux City, is shown in February. He issued a statement Monday critical of U.S. Rep. Steve King's comments on immigrants. 

SIOUX CITY | The bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City on Monday criticized U.S. Rep. Steve King's recent comments about immigrants.

"I am disappointed by Rep. King's remarks, which speak of migrants in a way that undermines their human dignity and the respect owed them as children of God," Bishop R. Walker Nickless said in a statement. "While Catholics may disagree on the specific approach to reforming the immigration system, they should agree that the immigration debate should be conducted in a civil and humane manner."

King, R-Kiron, has drawn ongoing criticism for comments he made last week about young illegal immigrants working as drug runners.

"His Excellency and I have had a number of constructive conversations regarding the dignity of every human person," King said in an emailed statement Monday. "Nothing I said undermined the dignity of 'migrants.' I spoke exclusively of drug smugglers not migrants. It is my job and oath to uphold the integrity of our immigration laws and protect the Rule of Law. I oppose granting a path to citizenship to drug smugglers and said so."

In an interview with Newsmax last week, King said this of young illegal immigrants: "For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that -- they weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."

Republican House Speaker John Boehner called King's comments "hateful," "ignorant" and "deeply offensive."

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The U.S. House of Representatives needs to address the immigration issue, Nickless said.

"I support common sense reform that provides a reasonable path to citizenship for the undocumented and promotes family unity," Nickless said.

Kristie Arlt, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Sioux City, on Monday said Nickless is out of town and cannot comment further about the statement. 

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