Republican Congressman Refers To 'Wetbacks' When Talking About Workers On His Father's Ranch

Don Young

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) is under fire for a racial slur he used to describe Latinos working on his father’s ranch.

In an interview with local radio station KRBD, Young lamented the amount of “automation” that has come to dominate American manufacturing. 

“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” he told the radio station. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

After the comment began drawing scrutiny, Young’s office released a statement saying he “meant no disrespect” by using the term.

“During a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” Young said in the statement. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays, and I meant no disrespect.”

He went on to praise the role migrant workers have in the economy, and added that “America must once and for all tackle the issue of immigration reform.”

Young has been Alaska’s only Congressman since 1973, and he is currently facing an ethics investigation on allegations of improperly accepting gifts.

His comment comes at a time when the Republican Party is in the midst of an effort to reach out to demographics that voted in large numbers for Democrats in the 2012 election, including the Latino community. 

Here’s audio of Young’s comments:

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