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Richard Piatt ReportingImmigration reform has become ammunition for the campaign season and the main target appears to be Congressman Chris Cannon.
Congressman Cannon is on the defensive over immigration reform at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. He claims ultra conservatives are using the issue to play on people's fears.
Cong. Chris Cannon, (R) Utah: “You get to the extreme and odd things happen down there. And you can’t call that Republican conservatism.”
This is a campaign issue for Cannon, taking on urgency after both a billboard campaign and a series of radio ads paid for by a group called the "Coalition for the future American worker."
Ad: "Immigration problems are about to get a lot worse thanks to a bill introduced by Congressman Chris Cannon. He calls it an agriculture bill. Please. It's really a bill to encourage mass immigration."
Cannon's Republican opponents--Greg Hawkins and Matt Throckmorton--are not claiming credit for the ad. But both say they do disagree with Cannon's proposal.
Cannon proposes granting temporary, renewable legal status to some agricultural workers for three years, under strict rules. The goal is to keep track of those immigrants--a first step toward larger immigration reform.
Hawkins calls this 'reactionary politics', and wants strict crackdowns on illegals here and at US borders instead. Throckmorton, also the head of Utahns for Immigration Reform, says Cannon's bill shows he's out of step with Utah.
Matt Throckmorton, Candidate For Congress: "We actually had a meeting last night with delegates and the number one issue they wanted to talk about was immigration. They're very opposed to what he's doing."
Estimates are that up to 12 million illegal immigrants live in the United States right now. Most people say that is unacceptable in an age where national security is a priority.
Both Hawkins and Thockmorton claim Cannon's proposal grants 'amnesty' to illegal immigrants. Cannon bristles at that, saying his bill only calls for more stringent tracking of immigrants.
Cong. Chris Cannon, (R) Utah: "Most of my opponents and I actually agree on most of the issues. This is an attempt to discredit me when we talk about amnesty."
As a result, Cannon knows he could face a primary challenge over this issue--one of the toughest campaign seasons of his career.
Cannon, Hawkins and Throckmorton are each seeking the Republican Nomination for the third district seat in Congress. The winner will face Democrat Beau Babka in November.