Subject: Congressman Lamar Smith Column: My Priorities for the New Congress
From: "Scales, Sally-Shannon" <>
Date: Thu, 9 Dec 2010 09:41:34 -0500
To: "Scales, Sally-Shannon" <>

2409 Rayburn House Office Bldg.  ¨   Washington, D.C.  ¨   20515  ¨  202-225-4236   ¨


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 9, 2010                                                                Contact: Sally-Shannon Scales, (202) 225-4236


My Priorities for the New Congress

By Congressman Lamar Smith


When the new Congress convenes in January, it will bring many changes to Washington. One change for me personally will be to serve as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.


Established in 1813, the House Judiciary Committee is the second oldest committee in Congress. Its jurisdiction often places it at the center of American politics, such as when it approved the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Particularly important today is the Committee's oversight responsibility for the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.


The Committee is often referred to as the guardian of the Constitution so our members have a steadfast responsibility. President James Madison was known as the “Father of the Constitution,” and I keep his autograph on my office wall as a reminder to uphold the principles of liberty, equality and justice for all Americans.  As Chairman, I will make sure that legislation considered by the Committee does not infringe upon Americans’ constitutional rights.


Like my constituents, I believe that Congress should focus on national security, economic opportunity and prosperity for all Americans and hold the administration accountable to the American people.


One priority of the House Judiciary Committee is to confront the threat of terrorism. In the past year, there were three terrorist attempts (one successful) in the U.S. And several additional terrorist plots recently have been uncovered. Terrorist threats have changed, but they have not diminished.


To protect Americans, we should not close the terrorist detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Just this week, the Director of National Intelligence reported that 25 percent of released Gitmo terrorists have returned to or are suspected of returning to terrorist activities. 


And we should treat terrorists as enemy combatants, not U.S. citizens. Giving foreign terrorists constitutional rights has no legal precedent and makes it harder for prosecutors to obtain convictions. We should bring foreign terrorists to trial in military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, not in civilian courts in the U.S.


The enforcement of our immigration laws is critical to the security and prosperity of our state and nation. The House Judiciary Committee should enact policies that will better secure our borders and discourage illegal immigration, human smuggling and drug trafficking.


In the past five years, more than 28,000 people have been killed along the border because of drug-related violence. That includes more than 1,000 law enforcement personnel who have died.


Without increased border security, we risk letting drug-related violence spill over the border. American citizens should not have to fear for their lives on U.S. soil. If the federal government enforced its immigration laws, we could better secure the border and better protect U.S. residents.


Texans also should not have to compete with illegal immigrants for scarce jobs.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one million citizens and legal immigrants currently are looking for work in Texas. At the same time, according to a 2010 Pew Hispanic Center study, there are one million illegal immigrants working or looking for work in Texas. That is unfair to legal workers.


Worksite enforcement efforts have fallen dramatically since President Obama took office—administrative arrests are down 79 percent from 2008, criminal arrests are down 62 percent, and convictions are down 70 percent. That means it is easier for illegal immigrants to keep jobs that rightly belong to U.S. citizens.


We could free up millions of jobs for Americans and legal immigrants if we enforced our immigration laws against illegal workers.


Congress also can help millions of Americans who are struggling to afford health care by enacting lawsuit-abuse reform. I continue to support such reform, modeled after the successful practices of several states, including Texas, which would save over $54 billion in unnecessary health care costs.


This would help American families struggling with health care costs and protect medical personnel who are overburdened by the high cost of malpractice insurance.


In addition to our policy initiatives to restore national security and create jobs, the House Judiciary Committee is committed to effective oversight of the Department of Justice.


Oversight is not a game of cat and mouse between Congress and the White House. It is the legitimate and necessary work of Congress to improve the operation and function of the executive branch and ensure that federal agencies are responsive to the interests of the American people. We need to make sure that our laws are equally enforced, criminals are prosecuted and our communities are kept safe.


Congress will have its hands full next year. But for democracy to work, it must be a government by the people and for the people. As your Congressman and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I plan to respond to the demands of my constituents for a more effective and accountable government.


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¨ Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary ¨ Committee on Homeland Security ¨ Committee on Science and Technology ¨