The White House Game Planning for Immigration Reform


President George W. Bush has long wanted immigration reform legislation to be a key part of his presidential legacy, and officials within his administration have been scrambling this week to try to keep alive the "grand bargain" immigration reform legislation that failed to pass in the Senate three weeks ago. The Senate will almost certainly reconsider the measure next week, and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Department Secretary Carlos Gutierrez both have been "constantly on the phone" this week, says one administration official, trying to prevent any poison pills from being included in the list of two dozen amendments that will get floor votes during the debate.

Every morning this week began at 7 a.m., with what one lobbyist called "war-room-style" conference calls — led by Bush's legislative assistant Candida Wolff — to go over new developments and to hammer out a daily strategy. In the past two weeks, Press Secretary Tony Snow has even been deployed to try to motivate immigration activists to push on, calling the president's immigration stance one of the reasons why he joined the administration.

"This week will basically be the last chance to pass immigration reform in this administration," says one activist, "and the administration is using every card they've got."

  • As Reform Falters, Immigration Focus Is on the Frontier (June 17)
  • -Angie C. Marek