Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, stands with his wife Lu at election central in Anchorage, Alaska, Nov. 4, 2008.

Rep. Don Young Apologizes for 'Wetback' Comment

Longtime Republican congressman: 'Migrant workers play an important role in America's workforce.'

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, stands with his wife Lu at election central in Anchorage, Alaska, Nov. 4, 2008.
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Alaska Rep. Don Young apologized Thursday evening for using the term "wetback" during a radio interview aired by local station KRDB earlier in the day.

Young used the term, which insinuates that someone is an illegal immigrant, in a reference to technological innovations that have improved economic productivity.

"My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes," Young said. "It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine."

In a statement to the Alaska Dispatch Thursday evening, the Republican congressman said: "I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California. I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect."

Young, in office since 1973, added: "Migrant workers play an important role in America's workforce, and earlier in the said interview, I discussed the compassion and understanding I have for these workers and the hurdles they face in obtaining citizenship. America must once and for all tackle the issue of immigration reform."

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