Immigrant advocates endorse bilingual candidate Alex Villanueva to unseat LASD Sheriff Jim McDonnell

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Challenger Alex Villanueva said that the last time a Los Angeles County Sheriff spoke Spanish was in 1890. On Monday, the bilingual Latino who served in the sheriff's department for 32 years won an endorsement he hopes will change that.

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, known as CHIRLA, said that they will campaign for Villanueva and tap into 1,000 volunteers who will knock on doors and make phone calls.

Before a throng of cheering supporters at CHIRLA headquarters, Villanueva pledged to take ICE out of the county jails. The activists said that the federal agents who come to the jail to take custody of criminal aliens deter the immigrant community from working with local law enforcement.

"We have a secure courtyard outside of the confines of the jail where we would do the -- still on our property -- but the important thing is out of the view of the inmates who don't understand the difference of what is going on," said Villanueva.

LASD Incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell said Monday that the present transfer process is less visible than Villanueva's proposal, which would send ICE agents to public areas surrounding the jail.

"They are going to see LASD deputies and staff marching the inmates over to a location where they're going to get on a federal bus. It doesn't make any sense at all," McDonnell said.

McDonnell added that Villanueva has never supervised more than 18 people, has never had a command and has never managed any budget. The LASD is a $3.3 billion enterprise, said McDonnell, with 18,000 employees.

Villanueva claims that McDonnell has failed to reform the department despite upheaval four years ago at the top of the department. Former LASD Undersheriff Paul Tanaka is now serving a five-year federal term for obstruction of justice.

"Bizarrely, no change at all. He kept all the same players in place. In fact, he promoted all of Paul Tanaka's foot soldiers to become his command staff," Villanueva said.

McDonnell praises his commanders.

"There's an awful lot of great talent within the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. We've used that talent, identified the right players, put them in the right seat," he said.

Both candidates said that they have not conducted any surveys. However, Villanueva said there are numbers that put him within striking distance of unseating McDonnell.
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