DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa state senator and congressional candidate was criticized by Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday after he said he supports executing immigrant felons who seek to re-enter the U.S. illegally after being deported.
The views of Republican Mark Chelgren were first reported by the Journal Express newspaper in Knoxville, Iowa. Chelgren is running for Iowa's 2nd Congressional District.
Reached by phone, Chelgren told The Associated Press that his comments came during a broader conversation about terrorism and border control. Chelgren stressed he was talking specifically about immigrants with felony convictions trying to re-enter the U.S. illegally with further criminal intent.
"I think capital punishment should be considered for people who are felons and re-enter this country illegally, yes," Chelgren said. "We have to make sure we are not incentivizing people whose only intent is to victimize."
Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire said the comments were "vile, hateful and downright deplorable."
Iowa Republican Party spokesman Charlie Szold said the comments "do not represent the values and the beliefs of Iowa Republicans."
Chelgren said Democrats did not closely read his statements, which he said were directed only at a "subset" of immigrants. Asked about the Republican criticism, he said, "Those are my beliefs and my beliefs alone and I stand by them."
Iowa's 2nd Congressional District is currently represented by Democrat Rep. Dave Loebsack.