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In a local newspaper interview, an Iowa Republican candidate for Congress said yesterday that he would favor the execution of some deported immigrants who try to come back to the United States illegally.

According to the Journal Express from Knoxville, Iowa, state senator Mark Chelgren spoke with the newspaper about his congressional candidacy. On the topic of immigration, the November 30 story reported:

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.

“There is no reason to have felons here who threaten our way of life,” Chelgren said. He has complete respect for immigrants who follow the law and come to America to assimilate and build a better life.

Chelgren’s comments were quickly condemned by both Iowa Democrats and Republicans, according to reports from Iowa today.

A Iowa Republican Party statement said: “These remarks do not represent the values and beliefs of Iowa Republicans. Period.”

Chelgren told The Des Moines Register today that his comments to Journal Express were “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.'”

According to the Register, Chelgren said that he does not want to separate families: “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.”