Gov. Phil Bredesen chided state Rep. Curry Todd Friday for his public comments likening pregnant illegal immigrants to rats that multiply.
“That certainly is a very poor choice of words,” Bredesen told reporters. “I would never refer to any human being in that way. I’m glad he acknowledged that was a poor choice of words.”
Todd, a Republican from Collierville and chairman of the House State and Local Committee, outraged immigrant rights advocates this week with his remarks during a legislative hearing. Told that health officials are barred by federal law from checking the citizenship of pregnant women seeking prenatal care, Todd said that means the women can “go out there like rats and multiply.”
Representatives of Hispanic groups and their supporters stood outside Todd’s suburban Memphis home Thursday and demanded an apology. Todd said he wouldn’t apologize but did concede he used the wrong words. He said he should have called the children of immigrants “anchor babies” rather than rats.
“I’m not apologizing to anyone who may have been offended,” Todd told a Memphis TV station. “I used the wrong terminology.”
Bredesen said: “I mean look, why would you ever put any tiny child or unborn child into this debate about illegal immigration? Obviously you provide prenatal care. We have a long history of deciding that the most common way people become Americans is to be born in the country. And I don’t particularly have any problem with that. I’ve been supportive of the notion of controlling our borders and identifying illegal immigrants, and I’ve certainly supported that in various ways. But let’s not make children pawns in this issue. It’s a grown-up issue.”