Iowa state Sen. Mark Chelgren recently said that some undocumented immigrant felons who continually break immigration laws should be executed.
“There is no reason to have felons here who threaten our way of life,” Chelgren told the Journal Express in an interview that was published on Nov. 30.
During the interview, Chelgren also announced that he is seeking the Republican nomination for Iowa's Second Congressional District.
Iowa Republicans quickly disassociated themselves from the state senator.
"These remarks do not represent the values and beliefs of Iowa Republicans. Period," Charles Szold, the Republican Party of Iowa's spokesman, said in a statement on Dec. 1, according to the Des Moines Register.
Iowa Democrats also criticized Chelgren for his remarks.
Andy McGuire, the chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, told the Register that Chelgren's comments were "vile, hateful and downright deplorable."
"We have heard Steve King and many Republicans running for president demean and insult immigrants and advocate for callous policies that would tear immigrant families apart. 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."
Despite backlash from both sides of the political spectrum, Chelgren stands by his remarks.
"I think capital punishment should be considered for people who are felons and re-enter this country illegally, yes," Chelgren told the Associated Press on Dec. 1. "We have to make sure we are not incentivizing people whose only intent is to victimize."
When asked about the criticism he received from the Republican Part of Iowa, he added, "Those are my beliefs and my beliefs alone and I stand by them."
He also responded to the criticism from Iowan Democrats when speaking with the Register on Dec. 1, saying they were overreacting and "race-baiting."
Chelgren added that he was specifically talking about immigrants with felony convictions attempting to enter the U.S. with further criminal intent.
"Of course, I will be strong on crime," he said. "I want to make sure that we don't have criminals coming into the United States and victimizing our citizens."