The argument over Arizona's harsh new immigration law has already sparked outrage from activists on both sides of the issue, and Monday's comments from an Iowa Republican congressional candidate will only add fuel to the fire.
During a Republican forum in Tama County, 3rd District candidate Pat Bertroche said police should catch illegal immigrants and document their whereabouts with microchips, the Des Moines Register reported.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think we should catch Ã¢â‚¬â„¢em, we should document Ã¢â‚¬â„¢em, make sure we know where they are and where they are going. I actually support microchipping them," Bertroche said. "I can microchip my dog so I can find it. Why canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t I microchip an illegal? ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a popular thing to say, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot cheaper than building a fence they can tunnel under.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Bertroche has already backpedaled from the comment, telling the Associated Press he can't understand why people would think he was suggesting illegal immigrants be micro-chipped or that he was comparing him to dogs.
"I don't support microchipping anybody and it also didn't occur to me I was comparing dogs to illegal immigrants," he said by phone.
Instead, Bertroche, a physician, said he was trying to "illustrate a social commentary on how radical" the immigration issue has become.
Immigrant rights activists have called Bertroche's comment "absolutely appalling."
Sandra Sanchez, immigrants voice program director for the American Friends Services Committee, said the statement was obviously meant to Ã¢â‚¬Å“dehumanize other human beings.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I was really saddened to see a candidate for public office make such an irresponsible statement,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I talk to groups, congregations, schools all over the state, and I know a large majority of Iowans would be appalled by such an idea.Ã¢â‚¬Â
As he continued to draw ire for the comment, Bertroche defended himself yet again Wednesday, this time blaming the media for his predicament.
After being contacted directly by someone who was upset with his statement, Bertroche sent an e-mail that was turned over to The Iowa Independent. He wrote that the whole situation is an Ã¢â‚¬Å“indictment on our media that someone has to say something this radical in order to bring attention to a reasoned and thoughtful idea.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Bertroche is one of seven candidates seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell.
He compared microchipping illegal immigrants to what he said are other radical ideas.
"Of all the major ideas that are out there, there are those that are extremely radical," he said. "Building a fence is radical and it won't work. Shooting them at the border is radical."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.