Utah Tests GOP Alien Policy; * Primary Candidates at Odds over Proposed Path to Citizenship in Immigration Reform

Article excerpt

Byline: Charles Hurt, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

SALT LAKE CITY - Republicans are betting their control of the House on the issue of immigration, and no test case is being watched more closely than the party's primary election here.

Five-term Rep. Chris Cannon says he opposes amnesty for the estimated 10 million to 12 million illegal aliens in the United States, but supports a "guest-worker" program that would allow them to stay in the country indefinitely.

Challenger John Jacob, a local developer and political novice who forced the primary by defeating Mr. Cannon at the Republican convention last month, calls such proposals "amnesty" and says Mr. Cannon should be removed from office.

"We need to stop up the borders now," he said in a taped debate last week on the University of Utah's public television station.

This campaign in a state where President Bush received 72 percent of the vote in his 2004 re-election bid has turned the politics upside down.

Mr. Jacob accuses Mr. Cannon of siding with Mr. Bush on the issue of immigration. Like Mr. Cannon, Mr. Bush supports a "guest-worker" program. The president also supports a Senate immigration-reform bill that would grant citizenship rights to millions of illegal aliens. Mr. Cannon denies that he supports that proposal.

Mr. Bush has taken to the airwaves to urge Utah voters to re-elect Mr. Cannon.

"Chris Cannon is an effective leader for Utah in Congress. He's a strong Republican, a proven defender of traditional family values," Mr. Bush says in a radio commercial that doesn't mention immigration.

At more than $1 million, the protracted Utah primary is estimated to be the most expensive in 15 years.

House Republicans have determined that immigration will be a winning election issue.

Last week, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois announced that House Republicans would delay negotiations over the Senate bill. Instead, they will hold hearings across the country before the November elections to gauge whether voters prefer the Senate "amnesty" bill or the House bill aimed at securing the border and enforcing federal immigration laws already on the books. …