SALT LAKE CITY — U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, made his annual appearance before the Utah Legislature on Friday and fielded questions on several topics, including immigration reform.
“Let’s face it: We have de facto amnesty now. We can’t seem to do anything about it. We need to take on this issue,” Hatch told members of the Utah House after being asked by Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Salt Lake City, if there were solutions coming from Washington, D.C.
The state’s senior senator said he has “real questions” about whether Congress will pass an immigration bill this year. The U.S. Senate approved legislation last year, but he said the U.S. House is taking a different direction now.
“They look like they’ve come a long way,” Hatch said of the U.S. House, which had rejected the Senate’s efforts on immigration. Still, he predicted any new legislation will run into difficulty. “It’s not an easy issue.”
Something needs to be done, he said, to allow foreigners who come to the United States for their education to remain in the country to work.
“We can’t be stupid about this,” Hatch said.
He also said there needs to be a solution found that allows people who entered the United States illegally to stay.
“Everybody knows we’re not going to push 13 million people out of the country,” the senator said.
In the Senate, Hatch responded to a similar question from Senate Minority Caucus Manager Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, saying U.S. House leadership has told him they’re going to come up with an immigration bill that will “get us forward.”
Hatch said, in the Senate, he’s dedicated to solving the problem because “brilliant” people shouldn’t be pushed out of the country after getting their education in the United States.
“We’re going to have to bite the bullet and do it the right way,” he said.
Hatch also talked about his support for the state’s push to get the federal government to turn over the two-thirds of the state under Washington’s control after being asked about the issue by Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi.
“We’re not treated fairly,” Hatch said, describing himself as one of the original "Sagebrush Rebels" from a similar effort decades ago. “We were being treated even worse than we are today. I’ve got a long history of being on your side.”
Hatch was not optimistic the situation will change anytime soon.
"I don’t think with this administration we’ll be able to do that,” he said in the Senate. “But if we would just keep the pressure on, which is what we’re going to do, hopefully we’ll get better treatment from the federal government.”
Hatch also touted his efforts to come up with a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, calling his legislation “an outline and a blueprint” that will be filled in during the coming months.
Obamacare is going to be a “disaster,” he said.
“We’ve got to change this,” Hatch said. "It’s going to eat us alive."
Hatch said he's dedicated to getting rid of the taxation on medical devices under the health care reform act, which he said is hurting Utah companies.
“It’s one of our most burgeoning, successful industries, and I’m going to do everything I can to get that repealed,” he said. “That was put on Obamacare for one reason: They needed $30 billion more. And it’s damaged a lot of companies in this country. It’s also pushed a lot of companies offshore.”