Comparing illegal immigration to a war that threatened the United States' future, GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly once exhorted citizens to rise and join his fight to stop people from crossing the border, according to audio of a speech he gave in 2006.
"I am a descendant of Jim Bowie, who died at the Alamo," Donnelly, then a leader in the Minuteman border-patrol group, said at a rally in Temecula that year. "It is rumored that he took a dozen Mexican soldiers to their deaths before they finally killed him. How many of you will rise up and take his place on that wall?"
He was speaking to about 200 people at a Save Our Nation event on March 25, 2006, held on the same day 500,000 people rallied in support of immigrant rights in Los Angeles, an event Donnelly noted.
"We are in a war. You may not want to accept it, but the other side has declared war on us," Donnelly said, railing against those marching with Mexican flags.
In the nearly 12-minute address, parts of which are patterned on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Donnelly refers to illegal immigration as an insurgency.
"There is a growing insurgency, right here in Los Angeles," he said. "…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.
"Right now, in the United States of America, there are 850,000 gang members, two-thirds of whom are illegal aliens," he said.
The address sheds light on a period of Donnelly's life that is little known, when he was involved with the Minutemen.
Donnelly said in an interview Monday that he stood by his remarks.
"Heck, I made the speech. Yeah, absolutely."
"I was trying to recruit people to help me stand on the border as part of the Minuteman" organization, he said. "I was not asking them to take Jim Bowie's place in anything but a historical context…
"I've never incited violence anywhere, ever," he said. "I would categorically, unequivocally stand against anybody who would."
He said the reference to insurgency was metaphorical, pointing to criminal gangs: "I never said people who come to this country illegally are insurgents."
The recording of the speech is no longer online but is accessible through a digital archive.
The archive also includes Donnelly's writings about his experiences patrolling the border. And there are links to radio interviews in which he calls for Americans to withhold their taxes for a day to protest what he characterizes as the federal government's inability to secure the border.
On the campaign trail these days, Donnelly, a second-term assemblyman from Twin Peaks in San Bernardino County, rarely mentions his time as a border activist.
Instead, he focuses on the state's economy, the drought, what he calls overreaching government and the high-speed rail project that Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown champions.
When Donnelly brings up immigration, it's to promise a better business climate — one he says will lead to long lines of U-Hauls on the freeways as people flock to California from Texas and other states for well-paying jobs fostered by reduced government and lowered taxes.
In the 2006 speech, Donnelly painted an alarming picture of illegal immigrants' effect on the United States. They have caused the destruction of schools, the bankruptcy of hospitals forced to provide them free medical care and led the government to abandon its citizens, he said, asserting that the country was on the brink of a battle similar to the Civil War.
The notion that illegal immigrants come to this nation for a better life "is one of the lies," he said. "At least 20% are coming to commit the crimes that American criminals will no longer commit."
He paused as the crowd laughed, then continued: "Of that 20%, how many are rapists? How many are murderers? How many are child molesters? And how many are terrorists? We don't know."
He then referred to heroes of early American history, including Benjamin Franklin, who "challenged us and said, 'A republic, if you can keep it.' That test is now.
"We are on the brink of a battle," he said, "unlike the likes of which this nation has seen since 1861."