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The Democrat seeking to succeed Rep. Jim Matheson after November's election vows to make immigration reform including creating a path to citizenship a cornerstone of his campaign.
Doug Owens made this announcement Wednesday, one day after a group of Utah business executives, religious leaders and law-enforcement officials held a rally to press the U.S. House to pick up the controversial issue.
"It's time for Congress to set aside party politics and work together to pass real reform to our nation's antiquated, ineffective immigration laws," he said in a statement. "I call upon Utah's congressional delegation to begin working on immigration reform now, and I look forward to joining them in those efforts next year."
Matheson, D-Utah, has said he supports a comprehensive attempt to reform the nation's immigration laws. Unlike Owens, he hasn't said he supports a pathway to citizenship. Matheson has decided not to run for re-election after serving seven terms in the House.
Owens, the Democratic nominee in the 4th Congressional District, faces Republican Mia Love, a former Saratoga Springs mayor.
Love, the daughter of first-generation immigrants from Haiti, criticized Congress for inaction on the issue and said she supports reforms that increase border security and make it easier for people to immigrate to the United States legally. But in a meeting with Republican delegates in April, she also said she would push off talk about what to do with immigrants here illegally.
"Amnesty? That's trying to fix the symptoms of the problem they created," she said.
Her campaign notes that she has the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major proponent of immigration reform.
Love's position mirrors that held by a majority of Republicans in Washington, while Owens' take fits that held by most Democrats. And this difference of opinion is what's holding up a deal.
The Senate, led by Democrats, has passed an immigration-reform bill that would boost border security, streamline the immigration process and include a path to citizenship. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, voted for that bill while Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, opposed it. But the House has done nothing with the legislation, rejecting out of hand one big bill in favor of a series of smaller pieces of legislation. That package of bills, none of which has come up for a vote, doesn't include a path to citizenship.
President Barack Obama and allies, such as those who rallied Tuesday in Utah, continue to apply political pressure, sensing that there's an opening to try pass such reforms before the midterm elections heat up in the months to come.