Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean (search) argued on Friday that Republicans will try to make immigrants the "scapegoats" in the next election.

At a rally, Dean garnered the loudest applause when he said Republicans would make immigration a pivotal issue during upcoming elections, as they did gay marriage and affirmative action in previous elections.

"Do you know who the scapegoats are going to be? Immigrants," he said. "In Colorado, the chairman of the Republican Party endorsed Tom Tancredo (search) for re-election. That is morally reprehensible. The governor of California, a supposed moderate Republican, invited the Minutemen to visit California. We do not need vigilante justice."

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., has drawn the ire of Hispanic groups in calling for tougher immigration enforcement and a proposal to tax some of the money immigrants send home. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search), in a radio interview in April, said the civilian border patrols known as the Minutemen "have done a terrific job."

Dean spoke at a rally on the eve of the Democratic National Committee's Hispanic Summit in San Antonio. Edinburg is located just a few miles north of the Mexican border and is more than 80 percent Mexican-American.

Dean also criticized President Bush, contending that the president rebuffed Mexican President Vicente Fox because of divisions over the Iraq war.

"A strong Mexico means a strong America, and our ties must not be based on the petulance of the president of the United States," Dean said.

Hollis Rutledge (search), chairman of the Hidalgo County Republican Party, said Dean's visit illustrates the inroads Republicans have made with Hispanic voters.

"One day of Republican-bashing won't make up for years of taking Hispanics for granted, and it cannot hide the fact that the Republican Party best represents the views and values of Hispanic Texans," Rutledge said.