Smith on immigration & 'inside-the-beltway' info
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
From the onset, Rep. Lamar Smith made it perfectly clear that his July appearance before the Kendall County Republican Party was strictly an informational session not a campaign rally. At the request of President Sheryl Holland, Smith came to the Hill Country bearing "Inside the Beltway" updates.
As a personal initiative, he sponsored a bill aimed at decreasing frivolous lawsuits. Likening time-wasting litigation as "legalized extortion," Smith said that when faced with years of litigation, high court costs and attorneys' fees, most defendants just opt to settle. As an example of a frivolous lawsuit, he described one filed against the Weather Channel for "not predicting the weather accurately."
As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Smith introduced the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act to help restore accountability to the legal system by imposing mandatory sanctions on attorneys who file worthless lawsuits. "In such litigation, plaintiffs will be responsible for paying court costs and all attorneys' fees," Smith said.
However, giving the bill little chance of being enacted into law, he added, "The problem will be the Senate because it's in the pocket of trial lawyers."
Turning to other matters of money, Smith contrasted the ways the House of Representatives and Senate are vying to balance America's burgeoning budget. "The Senate proposal offers $1 trillion dollars in new spending and after 10 years, the federal government will still be running a half trillion dollar deficit," he said. Conversely, Rep. Paul Ryan's plan calls for no new taxes and no spending increases and would balance the budget in the same amount of time, Smith said.
"Spending has increased 17 percent in the last three years," he reported. "We're now borrowing 25 cents on every dollar we spend." Smith indicated that coupled with 7.6 percent unemployment, decreased family income and an abysmal 2 percent economic growth, the nation is "spending its way to economic ruin."
Regarding the Affordable Health Care Act - aka Obamacare - Smith feels it may be the mechanism that will enable Republicans to gain control of the Senate in the 2014 midterm election.
"We used Obamacare to gain control of the House after the last midterms," Smith recalled. "I don't believe the fight is over." Democrat Senate seats that appear vulnerable include Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia.
"If there is a popular revolt, Obamacare will be rolled back," he said. "A couple of dozen Democrats have already supported delaying the individual mandate." President Barack Obama's Administration recently delayed for one year enforcing an important provision of the health care act - the employer mandate to provide health insurance for employees.
Smith then took up the main thrust of his presentation - immigration reform, which has been his focus since being elected to Congress in 1987.
He described the Senate's Comprehensive Immigration Bill as "unconstitutional, unworkable and bad for America." Ultimately the bill would increase taxes, and, according to Smith, as well as the Constitution, only the House can initiate legislation that increases taxes. "I think that's why the Senate has never sent their immigration bill to the House," Smith opined.
Also, according to Smith, with its "amnesty-after-six months" provision, the Senate version would legalize 11 million illegal immigrants prior to securing the border with Mexico. "No border security measures are ensured," Smith said, "except a provision that states, if the border is not secured five years after the bill's enactment, a commission will be appointed to initiate a study. That's not acceptable. We must secure the border before enacting any legislative amnesty."
Opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants now in this country, Smith said, "Citizenship is the highest honor this country can bestow and it shouldn't be given to people who have broken the county's laws," he said.
He also called the Senate bill "not good for the American worker" because a study has indicated that the competition would displace workers and depress wages.
"What message does amnesty send to the people who abided by America's laws?" Smith asked. "We should treat people who played by the rules fairly."
In response to the Senate bill, Smith authored the Legal Workforce Act, the centerpiece of which is E-Verify. Created in 1996, E-Verify is a web-based program that checks the Social Security numbers or alien identification numbers of new hires against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security records. This eliminates fraudulent numbers and helps ensure that newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States. At present, over 450,000 American employers voluntarily use E-Verify, which is reportedly 99.7 percent effective.
Other methods of reducing illegal immigration would include using interior enforcement to track people who overstay temporary visas; a guest worker provision for seasonal workers; and fast-tracking highly skilled immigrants with advanced degrees in science, mathematics and technology. "We need more of those kinds of people," Smith said, "not 'chain migration' that includes uncles, aunts and cousins." However, Smith spoke in favor of an exception to amnesty and eventual citizenship, those who were brought into the US illegally as babies and small children "through no fault of their own."
In conclusion, Smith said that each week, he hand-delivers to his Congressional colleagues an envelope containing what he feels are pertinent articles and position papers dealing with immigration. "I have been working on immigration all my political life and I'm really concerned about this," Smith said. "We are talking about the future of our country."
For more information, visit http://lamarsmith.house.gov/ and sign up for newsletters and alerts and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Pictured: Sheryl Holland, president of the Kendall County Republican Party, and Kendall County Judge Darrel Lux, right, welcomed Rep. Lamar Smith to Boerne on Friday, July 26.