MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker's administration has fired a high-ranking state Department of Transportation executive after he posted comments on Facebook calling immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission criminals and likening them to Satan.
DOT spokesman Robert Miller said in an email statement to The Associated Press that Assistant Deputy Secretary Steven Krieser was no longer employed at the agency as of Thursday. He declined to elaborate. Krieser made $97,971 annually.
Krieser confirmed in emails to the AP on Friday that he wrote the comments and apologized for them.
"I am deeply sorry and remorseful for my hurtful comments. I sincerely apologize to all who took offense. I have learned from this humbling situation, and can ask only thay (sic) people can find it in their hearts to forgive me."
The remarks come as Republicans across the country are wrestling with immigration reform. Walker, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016, has said the United States must remake its "cumbersome" immigration system and it makes sense to permit immigrants already here without legal permission to pursue citizenship as part of the fix.
Walker spokesman Tom Evenson called Kreiser's comments "repugnant" in a statement.
"Governor Walker condemns his views, and they do not represent the governor or his administration in any way," the statement said.
Krieser's remarks were part of a Facebook discussion Thursday about a bumper sticker on sale at a Germantown gas station that read "Illegal Immigrant Hunting Permit ... No Bag Limit - Tagging Not Required."
Responding to a comment that Jesus would be considered a non-English-speaking foreigner if he appeared in the United States, Krieser commented that the sticker "is probably over the top." But he went on to call immigrants who have entered the country without permission criminals, saying they've crushed southern states' social safety nets and education systems and skewed the service and agricultural sectors against natural-born Americans.
" ... You may see Jesus when you look at them. I see Satan. And if they don't like it here, hey, the door they came through to get here swings both ways," Krieser wrote.
Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, also took part in the Facebook discussion about the bumper sticker, writing that Jesus didn't preach violence or resentment toward the poor and gays. He said in a phone interview he couldn't believe what Krieser wrote.
"This guy didn't put just one or two sentences in," Zepnick said. "He went on a whole tirade."
Krieser made news in 2011 when he sent an email to Division of Motor Vehicles staff telling them to issue free identification cards only if customers asked for them. The free ID option is part of a Republican-authored law that requires voters to show photo identification at the polls. A Dane County judge has blocked the law from taking effect.