One Iowa mayor says he wants to rid his town of illegal immigrants, and is asking other cities in the state to join him.
Marion Mayor John Nieland said during his State of the City speech on Tuesday that illegal immigrants and the contractors and subcontractors that hire them are hurting the middle class. He said the illegal immigrants are "criminals.
"I'm not going to flinch on this, they are," Nieland said.
Nieland's comments were met with concern from some members of the audience, including Lee Clancey, president and CEO of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and former mayor of Cedar Rapids.
Clancey questioned the impact Nieland's plan would have on an initiative, called Diversity Focus, that encourages immigrants to move to the area and work.
"I have some concerns about jeopardizing the effort that is being done up and down the corridor with many, many organizations and many, many businesses," Clancey told Nieland. "How are you going to implement this plan without jeopardizing that important work that is being done to change our culture ... to a more welcoming one?"
Nieland said he supports legal immigrants and doesn't believe his view discourages diversity.
"If you're saying to me I'm too tough on illegal immigrants, I'm sorry, I don't agree with you," Nieland told Clancey. "Not at all. Not when they put our workers out of jobs. And if you don't think it's happening, I ask you to spend some time with the people representing the labor force."
Alfred Ramirez, executive director of Diversity Focus, said he was disappointed that Nieland used his speech to present what he said was an unbalanced view of illegal immigration.
"I have a very difficult time believing that Marion is under siege by undocumented illegal workers," Ramirez said.