Dean says Republicans will use immigration to divide voters

PHOENIX -- Republicans plan to use the vast problems caused by illegal immigration to try to divide Americans voting in next year's midterm election, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said Saturday.

"Once again, the Republicans created problems so they think they can come in and solve them," Dean told DNC members meeting in Phoenix.

Thousands of illegal immigrants cross America's borders each year. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 11 million illegal immigrants now live in the United States.

Immigration is gaining prominence in politics, especially in Western states.

President Bush has urged Congress to let illegal immigrants get three-year work visas that could be extended for an additional three years. Then, they would have to return home for a year to apply for a new work permit.

Dean said the government should have an "earned legalization" program in which immigrants who contribute to society and pay taxes should be able to earn the right to become citizens.

The DNC chairman also criticized Bush for not working with Mexico to confront America's immigration problems. "Work with Mexico to improve economies in rural America and rural Mexico, and you will stop the flood of people wanting to come to America," Dean said.

Republican National Committee spokesman Tucker Bounds said Democrats are out of touch with voters on border security.

"Dean's blatant mischaracterization of Bush's agenda is his best effort to mask the Democrats' unmistakable lack of a plan and any connection with voters on issues that matter," Bounds said.

Dean said Democrats will appeal to voters on other issues by offering tax law changes that treats middle-class families fairly, health care for more Americans and plan for withdrawing troops from the war in Iraq.

"The collapse of the Republican confidence in the Republican leadership is not enough to elect Democratic leadership," Dean said. "We have stand up for what we believe."

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