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An Iowa state senator running for U.S. Congress is getting blasted by both his Republican Party and Democrats after saying that immigrant felons who try to re-enter America illegally should be executed.
State Sen. Mark Chelgren's controversial comments were published Monday by the Journal Express of Knoxville and Marion County, which presented his views on border security and immigration. The newspaper said the two-term state legislator believes in a fence to help protect the nation's borders, and that if an undocumented person who committed a felony is deported and then tries to return to the U.S., he or she should be subject to capital punishment.
"There is no reason to have felons here who threaten our way of life," Chelgren told the Journal Express, which added that he respects immigrants who are legally in the country.
Officials with the Republican Party of Iowa, however, sought to distance themselves from Chelgren, saying in a statement that "these remarks do not represent the values and beliefs of Iowa Republicans. Period," reported the Des Moines Register.
Chelgren, who represents a heavily Democratic district in southeastern Iowa, did not immediately return NBC News' request for comment.
The Iowa Democratic Party put out a statement Tuesday attacking Chelgren's suggestion as "vile, hateful and downright deplorable."
"Mark Chelgren's call for executing undocumented immigrants represents a dangerous new low for the Republican Party," said Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party.
Chelgren later clarified to The Associated Press that he was referring specifically to undocumented immigrants with felony convictions who 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."