On Monday, the Knoxville Journal Express reported that Iowa State Sen. Mark Chelgren, who this year is challenging Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, for his seat in Congress, suggested that the U.S. use the death penalty to punish undocumented immigrants who commit felonies in the U.S. and later try to reenter the country.
“For border security, Chelgren believes a fence would define the border and control who enters and leaves. If one is found to have crossed into the country illegally, committed a felony while here, then been deported, he supports executing that individual if they break America’s immigration laws a second time,” the paper reported.
Chelgren, who has served in the Iowa state senate since 2010, later confirmed his remarks in an interview with the Des Moines Register, saying that he “will be strong on crime” and “make sure that we don’t have criminals coming into the United States and victimizing our citizens.” He said that Democrats were “race-baiting” by criticizing his proposal.
State Sen. Mark Chelgren, a southeast Iowa Republican who is running for Congress, says he favors consideration of capital punishment for criminal immigrants who continually enter the United States illegally.
Iowa Democrats harshly criticized that stance Tuesday, and a spokesman for the Republican Party of Iowa issued a statement disassociating the party with Chelgren’s comments.
Chelgren, an Ottumwa businessman, was quoted Monday by the Journal-Express of Knoxville and Marion County as saying that for border security, he believes a fence would define the border and control who enters and leaves. If one is found to have crossed into the country illegally, committed a felony while here, then been deported, he supports executing that individual if he or she breaks U.S. immigration laws a second time, the newspaper said.
Chelgren recently announced plans to seek Iowa’s 2nd District U.S. House seat now held by Rep. Dave Loebsack, an Iowa City Democrat. He confirmed the remarks made to the Journal-Express in an interview Tuesday with The Des Moines Register, but he said he was only suggesting that capital punishment be considered narrowly in situations where persons repeatedly enter the United States with the intent of committing terrorism or other felony crimes. He contended that Democratic Party officials were overreacting to his remarks and engaging in “race-baiting.”
“I am looking at people who are deported and who re-enter the country illegally. Obviously, I don’t want to tear apart families. We need to be sure we are protecting the people of the United States,” Chelgren said.
He added, “Of course, I will be strong on crime. I want to make sure that we don’t have criminals coming into the United States and victimizing our citizens.”