Democrats blamed President Bush and the Republican Party on Saturday for blocking immigration reform through an orchestrated campaign to "scapegoat" immigrants.

In her party's weekly radio address, Rep. Hilda Solis of California said Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., "lack real leadership to stop extremists in their party" from thwarting immigration reform legislation.

Earlier this month, the Senate failed to pass a bill when Frist and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid could not agree on a procedure for voting on amendments to legislation that would strengthen border security, create a guest worker program and offer eventual citizenship to many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

"What America saw during the last few weeks did not happen overnight," said Solis, the daughter of Mexican and Nicaraguan immigrants. "The Republican Party set out to scapegoat immigrants in order to divide voters and win elections long ago, just as they did in the past elections on issues such as gay marriage."

Solis also criticized legislation passed by the House in December that would make it a felony to help an illegal immigrant, calling it part of an "assault" on immigrants by the GOP. She said the bill would make it a crime for a priest to offer communion to an undocumented worker.

Republicans are "alienating Americans of every background" with such a punitive approach, Solis said.

"The American people want change," she said, "not more of the same ineffective immigration proposals that scapegoat immigrants."