With Republicans having secured a majority trifecta in Washington — the House of Representatives, Senate and presidency — Democrats in Congress no doubt will have a tough year(s) ahead.
That makes unity of the Democratic Party all the more important in the upcoming Congress, and will propel those who lead the party during this transition into roles of great historical importance for our nation.
Therefore we take great pride in learning this week that one of the Valley’s own, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, a third-term Democrat from Brownsville, has secured just such a leadership position within the Democratic Party.
On Wednesday, Vela told us he has been tapped by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi for the party’s elite leadership team.
In a statement, Pelosi said she selected him because “Congressman Vela has been a relentless advocate for immigrant rights and a strong voice for the millions of Americans who live along the U.S.-Mexico border. His sound policy perspective has played a vital role in the past and is needed more than ever at the leadership table.”
The incoming chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, added: “I’ve come to know Congressman Vela as a leader who has both policy chops and political know-how — a combination we need at this critical time.”
Indeed, Vela’s knowledge of our Southwest border and his suggestions for reforming immigration policy are needed in Washington, D.C., especially as President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to build a wall here to keep immigrants out.
Vela, who is the ranking member of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, told us Wednesday that he has been an outspoken advocate for immigration reforms that will protect the Rio Grande Valley’s economy, and he opposes erecting a wall between the United States and Mexico.
Vela said he believes he was likely among the 16 congressional representatives picked by Pelosi because in 2014 he brought her to South Texas to personally witness the immigration surge here and to help her gain greater depth into this complex issue.
“Ever since, on issues related specifically to the Central American migrant surge, immigration in general, and border issues, she (Pelosi) throughout the years has come to me to see what my thoughts were. I think knowing that we have this surge now and knowing that we have difficult battles ahead of us — given President-elect Trump’s rhetoric on Mexico, on immigration and on the border — I’m sure that played a factor in her choosing me,” Vela told us.
Vela added that unity of the Democratic Party against a wall is necessary at this juncture in history. “We have got to go to battle against him on this,” Vela told us.
The Monitor’s editorial board has repeatedly called on Congress to enact immigration reforms that will uphold U.S. laws, protect our federal agents, increase the number of tax-paying residents and jobs, and maintain border trade with Mexico. With $1.5 billion in trade conducted each year between the United States and Mexico — and with a great majority of that trade crossing through South Texas — our country’s economic relationship with Mexico directly effects life in the RGV.
We rely on our leaders to relay that message to lawmakers in Washington, and we hope with his new “seat at the table” that Rep. Vela will be influential in preserving our economic interests, while helping to craft new immigration policies during the 115th Congress.