In a farewell appearence before the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, retiring Congressman Lamar Smith said he leaves regretting that a compromise on immigration reform could not be worked out during his tenure, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Smith, who declined to seek re-election this year after 32 years in the U.S. Congress, has always been a leader on immigration issues, and during his eight years as head of the House Judiciary Committee he helped fashion several measures to deal with the perennially contentious issue.
He told the Chamber the world should never doubt the generosity of Americans."We admit one million people legally every year, one million people," Smith said. "I think that figure is more than the total number of people admitted by every other country in the world combined."
But Smith said the immigration issue continues to be the most difficult measure to push through Congress. He cited a compromise he helped work out earlier this year that would have allowed so-called 'Dreamers,' people who came to the U.S. as children with their illegal immigrant parents, to obtain legal status, in exchange for a commitment to stronger border security.
"About 80 to 90 percent of Republicans voted for it, and not a single Democrat voted for it," he said. "I am not being partisan, I am just citing facts. And that was a huge disappointment."
He says he leaves knowing the issue will continue to vex his successors in Congress.
Smith, who now chairs the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, also blasted the U.S. EPA for sanctioning metro San Antonio for our air quality.
He says only about one quarter of the ozone that is measured in San Antonio actually is emitted by cars, industry, and other sources in the metro area. He says much of it is blown in on prevailing winds from other places, and even from other countries.
He says the EPA should realize that it is impossible for San Antonio to control the winds, and all the penalties in the world won't allow city officials to do so.
But Smith says he is optimistic that under the Trump administration, the EPA will be more conscious of 'over-regulation, and he predicts the ozone sanctions will be withdrawn before they are scheduled to lead to sanctions in 2021.
PHOTO: Lamar Smith answers questions at San Antonio Chamber event