Bush Steps Up Appeal to Hispanic Voters

ByABC News
July 5, 2000, 4:36 PM

S A N   D I E G O, July 5 -- Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, stepping up his appeal to Hispanic voters, called today for all permanent residency applications to be handled within six months, instead of the current three to five years.

Bush, the governor of Texas and son of former President George Bush, told the National Council of La Raza annual conference he wanted immigrants to the United States to bewelcomed with open arms rather than by a hostile Immigrant and Naturalization Service bureaucracy, as is often the case today.

We will bring to the INS a new standard of service and culture of respect, Bush told the nonprofit organization, which seeks to reduce poverty and increase opportunity for Hispanics.

Bush, who leads his Democratic opponent, Vice President AlGore, by up to 13 percentage points in recent opinion polls, still trails among Hispanics, who have become a reliable Democratic constituency. In one recent survey, Gore led among Latino voters by 50 percent to 34 percent.

Family Ties

But Bush has a record of reaching out to Hispanics, whoseimportance in U.S. politics is growing. Currently estimated at 13 percent of the population, Hispanics are expected to become almost 20 percent by 2025.

When he won a landslide victory for a second term asgovernor of Texas in 1998, Bush took almost half the Hispanic vote, more than any previous Republican. In campaign speeches, he has even expressed understanding of the motives of illegal immigrants from Mexico, saying they were only trying to help their children build a better future.

Bush recently tapped his 24-year-old nephew, George P. Bush, a self-described Hispanic-American who is bilingual in Spanish and English, to head his youth outreach campaign and to tape some Spanish-language TV advertisements. The younger Bush is the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his Mexican-born wife, Columba.

The speech to La Raza expanded on a previous Bush proposalto split the INS into two separate agencies one to patrol the border and prevent illegal immigration and the other to deal with legal migration.