Tuesday, June 27, 2000

NEW YORK Texas Gov. George W. Bush, leading Vice President Al Gore among every major voter category except black and Hispanic Americans, yesterday made appeals to both groups.

He spoke at the annual summer dinner of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Manhattan. Earlier in the day, he addressed the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in Washington.

His speech on themes of opportunity and values last night marked the first ever by a presidential candidate of either party to a meeting of CORE, the civil rights organization headed by a black conservative, Roy Innis.

“It shows he is a different kind of candidate, a different kind of Republican,” Mr. Innis said.

The Texas governor’s major proposal of the day came at the LULAC meeting, where he proposed splitting the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service into two separate agencies during a luncheon speech to the country’s largest Hispanic organization.

“I intend to reform the INS to make it more welcoming to immigrants,” he told 700 people attending LULAC’s 71st national convention at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

Mr. Bush said that, if elected president, he also would support changing INS policies so that spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents can apply for visitor visas while their immigration applications are pending.

The candidate dismissed what he said was the assumption of many in the immigration bureaucracy that such family members will abuse their temporary-admittance status under his plan.

He said his aim is to encourage family reunification for legal immigrants a theme that clearly had great resonance for his audience and the broader immigrant community it represented.

“I think his idea of restructuring the INS is fabulous, if he can pull it off,” Selma de Jesus-Zayas, chief psychologist for the federal Bureau of Prisons in Miami, said after hearing Mr. Bush’s proposal.

“In Miami, we’ve had a lot of problems with split families, be they Cuban or Haitian, precisely for the reasons he was mentioning immigration policies.”

The Texas governor later flew to New York to accept a “Harmony Award” from CORE, a 58-year-old civil rights group, for helping “bring people together.”

Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson, who persuaded Bush campaign chief strategist Karl Rove and Mr. Bush to address CORE, said the campaign and the meeting were about not playing “the race card.”

“We are here to honor people who did the right thing, not the race thing,” Mr. Nicholson said.

New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said, “One thing that CORE, Bush and Innis have in common is including people, not dividing them.”

Upon Mr. Innis’ introduction, Mr. Bush said, “I’m really enjoying my run, Roy.”

The two men embraced.

Mr. Bush barely mentioned race in his speech, except to say that his tax-cut and education proposals are meant to give opportunity and “to make sure the American dream touches every willing heart.”

The LULAC audience also gave Mr. Bush a warm reception. After his speech, he was surrounded by a throng of luncheon guests, eager to shake his hand or have their picture taken with him.

Mrs. Jesus-Zayas, who was one of those who did both, said she is a Democrat, but found Mr. Bush more charming and personable than she found Mr. Gore when she heard him speak.

Asked if she might vote for Mr. Bush, she said, “I don’t know. Maybe. I’ve always voted Democrat. But what he is proposing is fabulous. He really understands.”

Mr. Bush trails Mr. Gore by 12 percentage points among all Hispanic voters but, according to Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, “Bush Hispanic voters are more likely to come out for him than the Gore Hispanic voters are likely to turn out for the vice president.

“In the Hispanic community, we on the Democratic side still have a challenge,” Miss Lake said at a briefing last week on the latest poll she conducted jointly with Republican pollster Ed Goeas.

Rep. Henry Bonilla, Texas Republican, told The Washington Times on Saturday that the key to Mr. Bush’s popularity among Hispanics is that “Bush doesn’t pander. His message is the same to every ethnic group. He reaches out to all the ethnic groups as Americans first.”

Sprinkling his speech with Spanish-language sentences and expressions as he so often does in campaigning and in ordinary conversation, Mr. Bush yesterday said he would split INS into a border-enforcement agency and an immigrant-services agency.

He said the INS’ current dual goals of enforcement and service often result in lax enforcement on the one hand and hostile and overly bureaucratic treatment of legal immigrants on the other.

Mr. Bush, who won 47 percent of the Hispanic vote in his re-election to a second term as governor of Texas in 1998, yesterday praised Hispanics for their contribution to his state and to the nation.

“I will take that same attitude to the Casa Blanca [White House],” he said to applause and laughter from the audience, made up mainly of small-business owners and professionals.

“Family values do not stop at the border, at the Rio Grande River,” he said. “Latinos enrich our country with faith in God, a strong ethic of work and community and responsibility.”

“We can all learn from the strength, solidarity and values of Latinos,” he said.

LULAC, with a membership it says numbers about 115,000, is the largest and oldest Hispanic organization in the country.

Mr. Gore, who also adds Spanish to his speeches to Latino audiences, addressed the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Denver on Thursday and is scheduled to address LULAC later this week.

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