EVERETT – Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist delivered a rousing speech to about 100 supporters at a rally in Everett Saturday evening.
The 58-year-old firebrand activist from Southern California was the keynote speaker of the Illegal Immigration Summit, which included an Everett City Council candidate and a GOP presidential hopeful who spoke to the audience via speakerphone.
During his 45-minute talk, Gilchrist, dressed in a dark suit, praised the defeat of a far-reaching U.S. immigration reform bill in the Senate this week. The bill would have granted amnesty for as many as 12 million undocumented workers.
But he warned of a pending “tsunami of immigration” that threatens the country’s very existence.
He spoke against free-trade agreements and employers who hire undocumented workers, and he drew an analogy between U.S. immigration policies today and events that led to the fall of the Roman Empire.
“This is how a nation is conquered without firing a shot,” he said.
Gilchrist predicted that Spanish will become the official language of the United States by 2030 if current immigration patterns don’t change.
His controversial Minuteman Project has placed volunteer guards to watch the southern border for people who try to enter the country illegally.
The project has been the focus of criticism from a variety of voices across the political spectrum, including President Bush, who said its members are vigilantes.
Others, including Latino activists, have called the group racist.
“They’re using fear to motivate people,” said Luis Moscoso, who was among a group of about a dozen people who picketed outside the event.
Moscoso, secretary of Seattle-based Washington State Democrats, said he was particularly troubled that Shawna Forde, an Everett City Council candidate, and Snohomish County sheriff candidate Tom Greene were among the day’s speakers.
Saturday’s six-hour forum held at the Everett Elks Lodge was organized by Minutemen American Defense and The Reagan Wing, both Washington-based conservative groups.
Forde, the founder of Everett-based Minutemen American Defense, encouraged the audience to shout “take back America” together several times during her speech.
Presidential candidate and California Rep. Duncan Hunter spoke to the audience via cell phone, saying he would build an 850-mile wall along the southern border stretching from California to Texas.
A representative for presidential candidate Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Republican congressional hopeful Doug Roulstone also spoke. People paid $30 each to attend.