Posted on July 20, 2005

Dean: Immigrants Are GOP’s 2006 Foil

Larry Eichel, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 20

Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean told the National Council of La Raza yesterday that he expected the Republican Party to “scapegoat immigrants” during the 2006 election campaign.

In a speech on the last day of the Hispanic advocacy organization’s annual gathering, at the Convention Center, Dean said the GOP had tried to generate resentment against blacks in the 2002 elections through the issue of affirmative action and against gays last year by focusing on marriage.

“In 2006, it’s going to be immigration,” he said. “You wait and see.”

As evidence, Dean cited Rep. Thomas G. Tancredo (R., Colo.), who has called for rounding up illegal immigrants and shipping them back home. He also referred to a bill sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.) that would make states verify individuals’ immigration status before issuing them driver’s licenses.

“I don’t think the president is a bigot,” Dean told reporters at the Convention Center. “But I wish he’d have the courage to stand up to the bigots in his own party.”

Dean’s Republican counterpart, Ken Mehlman, followed him to the rostrum and did not respond there. But later, he told reporters that the former Vermont governor’s comments were “laughable.”

Said Mehlman: “It sounds like a good political sound bite, but it’s entirely belied by this president, this administration’s record.”

Mehlman noted that President Bush has created what the party chairman called “the most diverse administration in history,” that Bush got more than 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, and that the party is striving to get a bigger share in the future.

“Your interests are our interests,” he told his Hispanic audience during his speech. “Your cause is our cause.”