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Rep. Lamar Smith and His Thin-Skin on Immigration

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lamar smithLast week, Frank (Sharry) wrote a blog post at Huffington Post about the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX).  Smith is one of the leading immigrant-bashers in Congress. We had noticed that Smith has taken on an increasingly desperate approach to his usual anti-immigrant attacks, and had been attacking the media for not providing what he views as “accurate” coverage of the immigration issue. He’s also steamed at President Obama for using his executive authority to direct his agencies to prioritize deportations of serious criminals over long-term residents with family and community ties.  

Frank noted that Smith is “notoriously thin-skinned,” and Smith proved that point when he acquired a blog account at Huffington Post just to respond to Frank.

It’s not every day that the Chair of a congressional committee takes the time to lash out at an advocate. But Smith clearly can’t help himself. The esteemed Chairman did the same thing last summer when he wrote a column in The Hill attacking Markos Moulitsas over a failed immigrant enforcement bill known as mandatory E-Verify. At one point last year, Smith also sparred with conservative columnist Ruben Navarrette, who responded by pointing out that Lamar Smith “creates his own reality on immigration.”

Like Moulitsas and Navarrette, what Frank got from Smith was a response with lots of spin, but zero facts.

Smith laid out his same old talking points extolling the “benefits” of mandatory E-Verify. He cited a Rasmussen poll which showed support for the measure, but didn’t note that E-Verify faced enormous opposition from business, agriculture, and some very conservative members of Smith’s GOP caucus. It’s also a huge bureaucratic quagmire that will result in job losses and is opposed by the labor movement.

Smith also completely failed to explain his hypocrisy on the issue of prosecutorial discretion. He was for it before he was against it.  When he came out with a bill to try to strip President Obama from using discretion, he rolled out his big Senate support, the one and only David Vitter, a man with his own intimate relationship with prosecutorial discretion.  As Governor Perry might say, oops.

Lamar Smith has been one of the biggest obstacles to enactment of a federal immigration solution for decades. He claims that “We could make jobs available for citizens and legal immigrants if we simply enforced our current immigration laws,” though evidence shows that just isn’t true. And while his link to a “recent poll” goes to a page that doesn’t exist, polling from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center from last year shows that 72% of voters support a path towards citizenship for undocumented immigrants—and poll after independent poll confirms the same.

At the end of it, Smith completely ignores the point Frank makes, which is that the media isn’t to blame for Smith’s legislative failures, or the fact that his anti-immigrant message doesn’t penetrate with the American public. For too long he’s offered a pretend solution to a real problem, and then wonders why he’s not getting more traction.    

So there you have it. The thin-skinned Chair of the House Judiciary Committee offers yet another fact-free defense of his immigrant-bashing positions. It’s what we’ve grown to expect from him.