GOP's Likely Pick For Calif. Gov. Defends Worst Immigration Speech Ever

Gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks to reporters at the California Republican Party 2014 Spring Convention, Friday, M
Gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks to reporters at the California Republican Party 2014 Spring Convention, Friday, March 14, 2014, in Burlingame, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The frontrunner for the GOP nomination in the race for California Gov. is defending a 2006 speech in which he said undocumented immigrants have launched an “insurgency” that would lead to the most bloodshed in American history since the U.S. civil war.

In comments to the California press, state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) insisted that he stands by what he said about illegal immigration during the speech, which resurfaced this week. The video has been deleted from the web, according to the Los Angeles Times, but BuzzFeed posted the audio to its website.

Beginning his speech with the phrase “I have a dream,” Donnelly launched into an attack on illegal immigration that bore little resemblance to the rhetorical style of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

Donnelly began by railing against undocumented immigrants and immigrant rights activists “marching openly on our streets.” Then he threw out a war metaphor bearing little resemblance to reality.

We are in a war. You may not want to accept it, but the other side has declared war on us. They have done so repeatedly. There is a growing insurgency right here in Los Angeles… We need to begin to root out the insurgency in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, just as we are doing in Baghdad, Samarra and Tikrit 9,000 miles away.”

Insurgencies are defined as armed uprisings, usually targeting governments. No such insurgency organized by undocumented immigrants exists in the United States. To back up his false claim, Donnelly cited the problem of gangs violence.

Referring to immigrants from Latin America, Donnelly said: “In the name of diversity, we are bringing millions of people into our country who want nothing to do with diversity. Their creed is ‘for anyone in the Hispanic race, everything. For everyone outside it, nada -- nothing.”

Donnelly then characterized undocumented immigrants as criminals, despite the fact that several studies have shown that illegal immigration is not associated with increases in violent crime. The national homicide rate declined from 9.4 per 100,000 in 1990, around the time the wave of mass migration from Mexico began swelling the unauthorized population in the United States, to 4.7 per 100,000 in 2012, according to FBI statistics.

“They are just coming for a better life is one of the lies. At least 20 percent are coming to commit the crimes that American criminals will no longer commit,” Donnelly continued, using an apparently invented statistic. “Of that [invented] 20 percent, how many are rapists? How many are murderers. How many are child molesters and how many are terrorists? We are on the brink of a battle unlike the likes [sic] of which the nation has seen since 1861. We must become as radical as we are creative.”

Federal immigration officials estimated that between 80,000 to 100,000 criminal undocumented immigrants resided in the United States in 2005, the year before Donnelly’s speech, according to The New York Times. The higher figure amounts to less than 1 percent of the approximately 11.1 million undocumented immigrant population at the time.

Donnelly appeared to urge his supporters to join his fight against the imaginary insurgency.

“You must fight until there is no fight left in you,” Donnelly said. “I am a descendant of Jim Bowie, who died at the Alamo. It is rumored that he took a dozen Mexican soldiers to their deaths before they killed him. How many of you will rise up and take his place on that wall?”

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Donnelly defended the speech, saying: “I have more support from Latinos than most Republicans in this state… I have it because I’ve been outspoken on the issues that affect them more than anyone else.”

Donnelly’s Latino outreach has been less than stellar. He launched his efforts in January with a bilingual video featuring Cuban-born, Venezuelan-raised, U.S.-citizen actress María Conchita Alonso, in which she praised the size of his testicles. Rather than boosting his image among Latino voters, Alonso’s campaign appearance on behalf of the immigration hardliner caused an uproar in San Francisco’s heavily Hispanic Mission District, where she had been scheduled to star in a Spanish-language version of “The Vagina Monologues.” She pulled out of the show after activists threatened to boycott it.

Donnelly has insisted that his immigration views won’t hurt him in California's gubernatorial race, in which polls indicate Gov. Jerry Brown is favored to win reelection by a wide margin.

But the Tea Party candidate’s logic flies in the face of other Republican politicians’ experiences.

Many analysts attribute the GOP’s poor performance among California Hispanics to a backlash against former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration by pulling public services away from undocumented immigrants. Wilson backed Proposition 187, a referendum passed in 1994 that would have made it a crime for undocumented immigrants to attend public schools or use public health services. A federal court ruled it unconstitutional and it was never implemented.

More recently, the 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney flopped among Hispanic voters, winning only 27 percent of the Latino vote against President Barack Obama’s 71 percent -- the worst performance of any presidential candidate since Bob Dole's unsuccessful 1996 campaign. Many analysts say he failed to appeal to Latinos in large part because he embraced hardline immigration policies, including support for so-called “self-deportation” and his promise to rescind the Obama policy of deferring deportation for people brought here illegally as children.

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