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GOP candidate’s call to microchip immigrants draws backlash
A Republican candidate for congress in Iowa’s 3rd District calling for microchips to be installed in immigrants in the country illegally is “absolutely appalling” and counter to everything Iowa stands for, several immigrants rights advocates told The Iowa Independent Tuesday.
Discussing immigration policy on Monday, Pat Bertroche, an Urbandale physician and candidate for congress, told a Republican forum in Tama County, “I think we should catch ’em, we should document ’em, make sure we know where they are and where they are going. I actually support microchipping them. I can microchip my dog so I can find it. Why can’t I microchip an illegal? That’s not a popular thing to say, but it’s a lot cheaper than building a fence they can tunnel under.”
Sandra Sanchez, immigrants voice program director for the American Friends Services Committee, said Bertroche’s comments “dehumanize other human beings.”
“I was really saddened to see a candidate for public office make such an irresponsible statement,” she said. “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.”
In an e-mail to The Iowa Independent, Bertroche didn’t deny making the statement but said he never meant to suggest he advocates illegal immigrants be microchipped like dogs.
“First, I want to say that I was quoted accurately,” said Bertroche, who is one of seven men vying for the Republican nomination. “However, due to time, I was not able to complete my statement, which would have made it clear it was a critical social commentary on how inane and radical the discussion has become regarding the immigration issue.”
He went on to say, “I do not support micro-chipping humans. And I do not mean to compare illegals to dogs.”
Bertroche said he was comparing microchipping to other “radical ideas” he said have “all failed” around the world and throughout history, such as building bigger border fences, India branding “undesirables” and former President Reagan’s amnesty plan.
“At what point do we stop with the political ideologies and start discussing common sense solutions?” he said. “How many more boxcars full of dead immigrants do we need before we start addressing, in realistic terms, this tsunami of human slavery? How many more torn and broken families do we need before we agree to address, in practical terms, the magnitude of human misery created by illegal immigration?”
Alicia Claypool, chair of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, was not impressed with Bertroche’s explaination.
“It’s unbelievably inhumane to call for installing microchips to keep track of undocumented immigrants,” she said. “Flip-flopping the next day to say otherwise is not leadership nor a meaningful solution to the multiple issues involved in resolving our nation’s immigration challenges.”
She said it is clear he is “relying more on standard anti-immigrant diatribes than facts about immigrants or U.S. immigration policy.”
Sanchez said she is shocked that no one at the Tama County forum questioned Bertroche’s statements. If he wants to be a candidate, “he needs to become better informed, and an apology is the least he can do. He should apologize not just to immigrants, but to all Iowans.”
Marilyn Jean Hagedorn of Des Moines said she could not believe “a human being can speak about another human like Mr. Bertroche spoke of undocumented immigrants.”
“Do people leave their humanity at the border when they come to our country?” Hagedorn said. “Have you recently read the words on the Statue of Liberty? Are today’s immigrants no longer entitled to the same respect, dignity and a right to feed their children — for that is the reason the majority come here — for a better life for their families.”
Sanchez said comments like Bertroche’s, coupled with the recent passage of the nation’s most strict immigration law in Arizona, have created serious concerns in the immigrant community.
“Our fear is that an irresponsible candidate will use this for political gain and create a divisive environment,” she said. “People need to stop using immigrants as a football for political gain, because it only creates an unsafe environment for people of color.”