COLUMBIA — U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan is defending his remarks comparing the country’s illegal immigration issues to a house without a door that allows “any kind of vagrant or animal” to come in.

A spokesman for the South Carolina Republican said Wednesday that Duncan was simply likening the importance of border security to protecting one’s home.

According to The Greenville News, the first-term congressman made the remarks during a forum Tuesday night at Furman University.

State Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian says Duncan should apologize and likely made the comments intentionally to galvanize his base in the state’s conservative northwestern corner.

South Carolina’s illegal immigration law set to take effect in January is among the nation’s toughest. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.