SALT LAKE CITY -- Congressman Jim Matheson, D-Utah, expects Congress to make some move to fix the nation's immigration problem in the not too distant future.
Speaking before the state Legislature on Thursday Matheson said everyone agrees that current immigration laws are not working. He said it appears Congress is finally ready to at least examine what can be done to fix a system that many critics have labeled as broken, unfair and a threat to the nation's security.
"Right now it is one of the more positive environments to take action on this than I have seen in a long time," Matheson said when answering questions on the House floor. "I would welcome the opportunity to work for immigration reform."
Matheson noted the recent bipartisan agreement from the Senate's "gang of 8" on immigration is a step forward in making progress for real immigration law changes. He also noted that the U.S. House has its own bipartisan group working on immigration suggestions to add to the discussion on what Washington can accomplish on the matter.
When speaking with the senators in Salt Lake City, Matheson said he supports a new proposal being co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, which seeks to increase the number of H-1B visas -- employment based non-immigrant visas. Matheson said opening up more of those visas will allow companies in the U.S. to fill jobs that Americans just aren't prepared to fill because they don't have the training for the positions.
"We want to welcome those folks to stay here and not kick them out when they get their degree," he said. "We want the smartest in the world to stay here."
Matheson's progress report that the federal government is moving forward on dealing with immigration is welcome news at the Legislature. Utah's lawmakers have attempted to address immigration issues with their own policies, but much of it has been in constitutional limbo because the federal government has the authority on immigration legislation. Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo, said any movement on the federal level is encouraging.
"It appears they are actually having a real dialogue on the issue," he said. "This needs to be in their hands. They need to get this done."
In addition to immigration Matheson also answered questions on the bill creation process taking place in the nation's capital. He observed that the trend is that more and more major policy changes are coming straight to the floors of the House and Senate without the bills having a proper vetting in committee meetings. He said Congress needs to return to using the proper process when addressing major legislation.
The hugely Republican Legislature was cordial to the only Democrat in Utah's federal delegation. Former Matheson opponent Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love was at the Capitol while Matheson made his presentations, though their simultaneous visits were unplanned. After Matheson had exited the House floor Love was recognized by the lawmakers with a round of applause. Members from both parties greeted her with handshakes and hugs.