|MISSION, September 1 - For his long-awaited visit to the Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is making a departure from his summer tour of town hall meetings across the state of Texas.
Cruz, a Tea Party favorite who some have touted as a Republican presidential candidate in 2016, will speak at a luncheon at the Club of Cimarron in Mission, starting at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
However, it will not be a town hall meeting. Constituents who want to see the senator and hear his speech will have to pay. The banquet hall holds 35 tables and each table costs $500.
All the seats sold out within a week, said Julian Alvarez, president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. RGVP is the Valley’s regional chamber of commerce and it is hosting the Cruz luncheon.
“This is not a political fundraiser. Proceeds will go to our scholarship and some of the things we sponsor. It is an opportunity to raise money and disseminate that money through for special projects,” Alvarez told the Guardian. Recently, RGVP launched an endowment to help students wishing to attend the Valley’s new UT University, which is slated to open in the fall of 2015.
“Each table costs $500 and we sold out 35 tables in a week. Senator Cruz is a big draw. He has never been to South Texas as a sitting senator and so folks are interested to hear his message. He is going to give folks who are there an opportunity to ask some questions. He has invited the media,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said Cruz’s Valley district director, Cassandra Garcia, recently went on a retreat with her boss so that he could “get up to speed” on issues important to the region. Some of the top issues local elected officials and community and business leaders have identified are immigration reform, border security, facilitating trade with Mexico, transportation, healthcare for veterans, access to healthcare and tuition fees for students.
“This is an opportunity for Senator Cruz to meet with some of our local leadership and some of those who are involved in the business community. This will be the first opportunity for many people in the Valley to meet Senator Cruz since he became senator. It is his first visit since he was elected,” Alvarez said.
“In fact, Cassandra Garcia, who is his regional director, has been in a retreat with him for the last couple of days, bringing him up to speed. The senator is going to get an opportunity to meet with not only the business community of South Texas but he will be given the opportunity to visit some tour sites.”
Alvarez said there are some Valley sites Cruz has specifically said he would like to visit. “There will be some private meetings where he will be visiting with some folks at Anzalduas International Bridge and there are some other ports of entry we will be discussing with him,” Alvarez added.
The fact that Cruz’s one and only event with his constituents in the Valley will cost $500 a table will likely disappoint colonia groups that have wanted to meet with the senator all year. Groups like La Unión del Pueblo Entero in San Juan, Proyecto Libertad in Harlingen, and Movimiento del Valle in Brownsville have asked to meet Cruz to discuss their push for comprehensive immigration reform. Cruz has said he opposes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The colonia groups strongly support this proposal.
The colonia groups, through their umbrella group, the RGV Equal Voice Network, have also asked when Cruz is going to open a Valley district office. Cruz’s predecessor, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, had a district office in the Valley. Cruz’s press office has said the senator intends to open a Valley district office in the near future and that his staff is currently scouting for a location.
On Friday, Cruz’s press office issued an advisory about the senator’s visit to South Texas. He is not only going to visit the Valley but also Laredo. Like the Club of Cimarron event, the Laredo leg of his summer tour will not include a town hall meeting.
“U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) will travel to the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo to hear from constituents, update Texans on his time in the Senate and explain the importance of the fight to defund Obamacare as part of the continuing resolution. He will also participate in a tour of the Texas/Mexico border and hear from Texas landowners impacted by an unsecure border,” the advisory states.
The advisory says Cruz will take questions from the audience and hold a media availability following the RGVP luncheon at the Club of Cimarron.
At 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday there will be an opportunity for Valley media outlets to take b-roll footage of Cruz and law enforcement officials as the senator goes on a short Border Patrol boat tour of the Rio Grande. This will take place at Anzalduas Park.
At 4:20 p.m. on Tuesday, Cruz will hold a media availability following a roundtable “with Texas border landowners impacted by an unsecure border,” the advisory states. This will take place at Anzalduas International Bridge.
On Wednesday, Sept. 4, Cruz will visit Laredo for a “Small Business Roundtable and Media Availability.” This will take place at the Laredo Chamber of Commerce. Media may get b-roll footage of Cruz’s opening remarks at 3:30 p.m. The roundtable portion is closed to press but a media availability will be held at approximately 4:15 p.m.