Several liberal-leaning groups are calling for House Republican leaders to remove Rep. Steve King from an immigration subcommittee, a response to the Iowa Republican’s recent comments that young illegal immigrants routinely smuggle drugs into the U.S. from Mexico.

The United Farm Workers, Dream Action Coalition, Credo, and others have organized online petitions to press House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., to strip King of his seat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

A nationwide firestorm erupted after King told the conservative website Newsmax last week that for every young immigrant who comes to the U.S. and becomes a valedictorian, “there’s another 100 out there that — they weigh 130 pounds, and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert” into the U.S.

Boehner on Thursday strongly rebuked King, calling his comments “offensive and wrong.” But he stopped short of saying he would punish King, a Tea Party favorite.

Later Thursday King defiantly took to the House floor to defend his comments, saying in a long speech that drug lords in Mexico are “recruiting kids to be drug smugglers.”