By Hannah Yang, Post-Bulletin - Outside the fences of the Federal Medical Center in Rochester on Thursday, Republican 1st District candidate Jim Hagedorn lashed out against Democratic policies on terrorism and refugees.
Hagedorn accused Rep. Tim Walz of seeking to bring terrorists to Southeast Minnesota and endangering its people. The Blue Earth Republican said that the congressman voted to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and supported the transferring of "the worst radical Islamic terrorists" into the United States, specifically, the FMC.
Hagedorn is running against Walz, a Democrat from Mankato, for the 1st District congressional seat. Walz beat Hagedorn with 54 percent of the vote two years ago.
Stating that Minnesota is a "hot spot" for terrorist recruitment, Hagedorn said he hopes to put a timeout on the Refugee Resettlement Program, saying there is the potential of extremists entering the region by taking advantage of the refugee crisis.
Stressing the need to secure the country's borders and fight against "radical Islamists and jihadists," Hagedorn said he wants to block new refugees from entering the United States and criticized Walz's apparent amnesty toward them.
"What's to stop them from coming here?" Hagedorn asked. "Politically correct statements backfired on (Walz)."
The Guantanamo Bay reference stems from President Obama's plan to close the detention facility by executive order. Obama has called the detention camp a "recruitment tool for extremists" and suggested that it undermined U.S. security.
In 2009, Walz said he supported having Guantanamo detainees housed in Rochester as long as significant safeguards were met. Hagedorn condemned Walz for that stance and support of the Obama administration.
Pete Hegseth, former executive director of Vets for Freedom, joined Hagedorn on Thursday. Hegseth shared his experience of serving as an infantry platoon leader at Guantanamo Bay. He insisted that re-electing Walz would have a detrimental effect on security in Minnesota.
"Why would we want to go back to pre-9/11?" Hegseth asked. "There's no room for jihadists or terrorists in Rochester."
Hegseth said that the policies and proposals Hagedorn supports don't make him Islamophobic, racist, or bigoted.
"We are welcoming of people from all backgrounds," Hegseth said.
In response to Hagedorn's criticisms, the Walz campaign issued a statement that said Walz has long been a strong voice on national security.
"In the latest defense bill, Tim Walz stopped the draw-down of Army troops, demanded accountability on our national security strategy, and worked to expand the authority of U.S. commanders in Afghanistan to track down and take out terrorists," the statement said.