Immigrant groups protest Peck, who made 'hogs' comment

TOPEKA | Representatives of immigrant advocacy groups met at the state Capitol today to deliver Internet petitions they said were supported by more than 55,000 people seeking the resignation of Rep. Virgil Peck, a Tyro Republican.

Peck invoked the anger of interest groups and attracted nationwide media coverage after a comment he made in a March 14 meeting on controlling feral hogs: "Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem.”

The group of about 12 delivered the petitions to Gov. Sam Brownback and House Speaker Mike O’Neal.

The petitions were the product of an Internet movement by Presente.org called “Dump Peck.” The petitions demanded Peck’s immediate resignation and also asked that “those in the Kansas state and National Republican Party who do not agree with his views call for his resignation now and hold him accountable for his hateful rhetoric.”

“Rep. Peck's words were dangerous,” said Lalo Munoz from the Latino Informational Network of Kansas. “There is no place in our Kansas State Legislature for someone who uses offensive words to endanger and create fear in our communities. Kansas is better than this.”

Peck further fanned the flames when he added after the meeting that he “was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person” regarding illegal immigration.

Emira Palacios, a Wichitan representing the Sunflower Community Action group, estimated there are between 10,000 to 15,000 undocumented people living in the Wichita area, most of them Hispanic.

“We feel this comment was directed at the Hispanic community,” Palacios said. “We as Latinos will not stay silent when a person who is supposed to be working for his constituents and protecting the safety of all Kansans refers to us as pigs that can by shot from a helicopter.”

Peck, who returned a call from his home in Tyro, declined to comment further on the matter.

He issued a written apology the day after making the comment: “My statements yesterday were regrettable,” he said. “Please accept my apology.”

Representatives of the advocacy groups spoke with a member of Brownback’s staff who said the governor has clearly condemned Peck’s comment. The day after Peck’s comment, Brownback told reporters, “I do not believe that is an appropriate statement to make.”

O’Neal has heard the calls for Peck’s resignation for nearly two weeks. His only official comment came the day after the incident in the form of a written statement issued on behalf of the House Republican Leadership.

"We agree that the remark was inappropriate," the joint statement said. "We have visited and counseled with Representative Peck about the matter and have accepted his sincere apology for the inappropriate remark, which, although made in jest, was not thereby made any less offensive."

Groups sponsoring the event included Sunflower Community Action, Presente.org., Somos Republicanos, Latino Informational Network of Kansas, Kansas/Missouri DREAM Alliance, LULAC Council, National People’s Action, and the Wichita Metro American GI Forum, among others.