Bush's announcement, expected on Wednesday, comes shortly before he travels to Monterrey, Mexico, for talks on 12 January with Mexican President Vicente Fox, who has worked hard to try to coax an immigration deal out of the United States. Bush is to meet Fox and other Latin American leaders. 

Bush and Fox were working hard on an immigration deal in the early months of his administration, but the effort fell apart over "terrorism concerns" after the 11 September 200 attacks. 

White House officials would not give details of the plan but other sources said it would seek to allow immigrants to cross into the United States legally if jobs were waiting for them. 

Immigration policy

"The president has long talked about the importance of having an immigration policy that matches willing workers with willing employers. The president will have more to say soon on his approach. There is certainly an economic need that exists," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. 

There are about7 million illegal
immigrants in the US

Bush, who speaks some Spanish, would like to attract more
Hispanics behind his re-election campaign, particularly in states where they could tip the balance in his favour, such as Florida and California. 

Bush's plan might also include a way for some undocumented
workers in the United States to move towards legal status.

Bush had yet to sign on the recommendations that could amount to the biggest change in US immigration law since 1986 legislation, which gave legal status to millions of illegal immigrants. 

The Immigration and Naturalization Service estimated in January 2000 that there were sveen million illegal immigrants in the United States and that 69 per cent of them were from Mexico. 

Education reform

Bush began the election year defending his education reforms against criticism from Democrats seeking to replace him, and adding to his campaign funds, which now exceed $120 million. 

"The president has long talked about the importance of
having an immigration policy that matches willing workers with
willing employers. The president will have more to say soon on
his approach. There is certainly an economic need that exists"

White House spokesman Scott McClellan

"We can have excellence in every single classroom across this country," Bush said on Monday at the Pierre Laclede Elementary School in St Louis, which he cited as a model for his "No Child Left Behind" legislation. 

Bush acknowledged that reading improvements at Laclede began before the bill was enacted two years ago, but said the school embodied his principles of accountability and testing. 

Democratic presidential candidates have stepped up their attacks on the bill, saying it is inflexible, unfairly punishes weak schools and is underfunded. 

"This is simply federal bureaucracy run amok," former Vermont Gov Howard Dean, a leading Democratic candidate, said in a telephone news conference. "It has the effect of making education worse in America, not better." 

Campaign cash

In his first political trip of 2004, Bush also raised $2.8 million in campaign cash, adding to a record for a primary season in which he has no Republican challenger. 

The Bush campaign this week is to release fund-raising results for the three months ending 31 December. A campaign official said the total since Bush began fund-raising last June would be "well more" than $120 million, which far outstrips any of Bush's potential Democratic challengers. 

"We are on the path to victory," Bush told his audience of about 1100 supporters at the St Louis fund-raiser. 

The president is casting education reform as a centrepiece of his "compassionate conservativism" agenda, targeting socially moderate voters. He called education his top domestic priority and told the fund-raising event, "The days of excuse-making are over. We expect results."