At an Aug. 2 immigration forum in Ames, Iowa, Harkin explained his reasoning.
“I separate out people who came here illegally from people who are criminals," he said. "Now it’s obvious that they broke laws and did things that were criminal and they shouldn’t."
“But I’m just saying simply because they came here to work – to provide for their family. They’ve broken no laws other than coming here illegally,” Harkin continued. “They’re here illegally – that’s true. And they need to go through all the hoops we put in the bill. But I just don’t classify them as criminals.”
Harkin attended the event along with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to promote the Senate immigration bill. Durbin is the one of the “Gang of Eight” senators who wrote the current Senate immigration reform measure.