WASHINGTON — When House
In a keynote address to mark the center's first major policy event, Bush will argue that overhauling the nation's immigration laws will be good for the country. A panel discussion titled "What Immigrants Contribute" will follow.
It is unclear, however, whether the former two-term president will help the bill's prospects in what appears an uphill fight in the Republican-controlled House.
Bush is not necessarily a role model for the new generation of Republican lawmakers. Many lean more to the right and reject a basic tenet of immigration reform — a long-term path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally — in a package with tougher border security and guest-worker programs.
Moreover, House conservatives who were swept into office in the
Although Bush's support can't hurt, House Republicans "are not going to pay too much attention" to the former president, his brother and former Florida Gov.
Whether rank-and-file Republicans ultimately approve an immigration bill that President
The conversation is likely to be lively. The more conservative flank rejects what it derides as "amnesty" for immigrants, while a reemerging moderate wing will attempt to shore up support for prominent Republicans at the forefront of the debate.
"We're never going to win the 'Hell no!' caucus," said one pro-reform Republican strategist. "But there's a large majority that could support reform and is either inclined to or undecided, and that's where our efforts are most focused."
The feud has left Republicans without a cohesive national message on immigration reform just as party leaders want to appeal to Latino voters who abandoned the party in the last two presidential elections.
Bush's pro-reform speech coincides with new TV ads and increased advocacy by the
Former Mississippi Gov.
"There's been a lot of misinformation throughout the debate and we believe it's important Floridians know that this bill helps provide the tough border security America needs," Brian O. Walsh, president of the GOP-aligned American Action Network, said in announcing an ad campaign supporting the state's Republican Sen.
But other considerations may prove more important to some House Republicans. Many represent districts with few minority voters, and they worry about a primary challenge from the right if they are not seen as being tough on illegal immigration.
They may be targeted by conservative groups, including Heritage Action for America, that oppose the immigration overhaul as a drain on federal resources that takes away jobs from Americans.
Key conservative players who could lend support, including the influential Club for Growth and
Bush, who served as governor of Texas before winning the
He won reelection in 2004 with 44% of the Latino vote. The party's nominee last year,