An Iowa state lawmaker says he supports the idea of executing some illegal immigrant felons who repeatedly sneak across the border.
Republican state Sen. Mark Chelgren, who is running for Congress, tells the Des Moines Register
that capital punishment should be considered narrowly in those cases — like for someone who's been deported but then returns illegally and intending to commit crimes or terrorism.
"I am looking at people who are deported and who re-enter the country illegally," the businessman tells the Register. "I want to make sure that we don't have criminals coming into the United States and victimizing our citizens."
When Chelgren initially made the suggestion Monday to the Journal Express of Knoxville and Marion County
, he set off a firestorm of criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.
According to the Register, Charlie Szold, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Iowa, issued a statement declaring "These remarks do not represent the values and beliefs of Iowa Republicans. Period."
Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, called the idea "vile, hateful and downright deplorable," the Register reports.
"We have heard [Iowa Republican Rep.] Steve King and many Republicans running for president demean and insult immigrants and advocate for callous policies that would tear immigrant families apart," she railed.
"Mark Chelgren's call for executing undocumented immigrants represents a dangerous new low for the Republican Party. America is a country of immigrants, unified by the hope and opportunity to give our families and our children a better life. Our diversity makes our country stronger. Iowa Democrats will continue to fight back against heinous and hateful rhetoric from Mark Chelgren, Steve King, and the Republican Party."
But Chelgren called that response an overreaction and an attempt to engage in "race-baiting."
"Obviously, I don't want to tear apart families," he tells the Register. " We need to be sure we are protecting the people of the United States."
Chelgren has announced plans to seek Iowa's 2nd District U.S. House seat now held by Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack.
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