WASHINGTON — Worried that the tone of the immigration debate is pushing Latinos away from the Republican Party, the White House is working with political strategists to create a broad coalition of business groups and immigrant advocates to back a plan President Bush could promote in Congress and to minority voters in the 2006 elections.
The strategists say Bush is planning to make immigration a top priority as soon as this fall, once the focus on a Supreme Court vacancy has passed. The push is being planned to coincide with next year's campaigns for the House and Senate, in which Latino voters could be crucial in several states. It is part of a broader White House strategy to forge a long-lasting majority by drawing more minority voters.
Aiming for an air of bipartisanship, the White House-backed coalition, to be called Americans for Border and Economic Security, will be led by former U.S. Reps. Cal Dooley (D-Hanford) and Dick Armey (R-Texas). The chief organizer is one of the capital's most important White House allies: former
Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, who has hosted preliminary meetings at his Washington lobbying firm just blocks from the White House and has been advising the RNC on minority outreach.
The effort is designed to help Bush take control of an increasingly contentious debate that has threatened to split the Republican Party and undermine its outreach to Latino voters. Although the White House has not laid out details for a plan, in January 2004 Bush proposed a guest-worker program that would be open to many illegal immigrants already in the U.S. and to prospective workers abroad.
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