MISSION, RGV – Some border leaders are for more relaxed about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign rhetoric than Congressman Filemon Vela.

On Monday, Vela, a Democrat from Brownsville, penned an open letter to the presumptive GOP presidential nominee and told him to “take your border wall and shove it up your ass.” A copy of Vela’s letter, in English and Spanish, is attached to the end of this story.

J.D. Salinas, chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, said his group does not plan to have any more public meetings before the presidential election. He said that, if something does flare up during the presidential campaign that directly impacts the border region, the TBC could convene a meeting.

Sam Vale, a former chairman of the Border Trade Alliance and owner of the Starr-Camargo Bridge Company, said the BTA does not get worked up about rhetoric. He said the key factor for the BTA is developing relations with U.S. House and Senate members because that is where legislation is developed.

Congressman Henry Cuellar said negative publicity about the border region can hurt economic development in border communities. By way of an example he said the VA struggled to hire doctors in Laredo because some doctors had the perception that the border region was violent. Cuellar said he brought C-SPAN to Laredo for two days last week to see what the border region was really like and during one of the TV shows made the point that Laredo was a safer city to live and work in than Washington, D.C.

Salinas, Vale and Cuellar were all interviewed by the Rio Grande Guardian last week, before Vela sent out his “shove it” letter. Here is what they said:

J.D. Salinas:

“We expect our (TBC’s) next meeting to be after the presidential election, possibly in San Antonio. We have conference calls every two weeks. If we have to get activated in late October, and we might have to, we will do that.”

Asked what issues might prompt an impromptu meeting of the TBC, Salinas said anything that hurts international trade. “The border is vitally important to this nation. We need to start getting the empirical data together to show what happens you do not pass immigration reform.”

Sam Vale:

“After the passions of the elections are over what it comes down to are the people you have in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. You can only do so much with executive orders. At the end of the day, the purse strings are in the House. It is not what people talk about it is what people can do.”

Asked if negative publicity about the border region can hurt economic development, Vale said:

“It is very negative from the point of view of recruiting but at the end of the day it is about the cost efficiencies and benefits of people here. We are a very efficient area of the country and we contribute substantially to the federal income as well as to national job creation. For example, one customs officer generates 30 jobs in the United States. One agricultural inspector in South Texas helps generate 7,000 jobs in the state of Texas.”

Henry Cuellar:

“We all try to do our part. For example, I invited C-SPAN to the Laredo area for two days. I said the border is safer than Washington, D.C. Two hours later a media outlet was fact-checking the numbers. They looked at Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. I think the murder rates per 100,000 were 4.4 to about 4.8. I said Washington was about 15.9. They double checked all those and I was correct.

“Soon afterwards I got a call saying, you guys are doing nothing on the border, you are letting everybody in. I said, no Border Patrol and CBP work hard. There are people with perceptions, usually, the further you live from the border, the less accurate you are. It is a difficult job because people have different perceptions about the border.

“I told the guys from C-SPAN. You have been here the past two days do you feel threatened? They said, no, everything feels good.”

Cuellar said border communities have to tell their story, no matter what is said at the national level.

“Our story is the border is safe and it is a very dynamic border. This is where trade is happening. It is hard because people have perceptions. On top of that, you have people like the Republican nominee, or soon-to-be nominee, bad-mouthing the border. Sometimes it is our own statewide officials that bad-mouth the border. I think we need to hold those people accountable because that affects us.

“I get accused of doing the chamber of commerce speech and I say, yes, in many ways I am because if you talk to hospitals, sometimes it is hard to bring doctors in from out of town because they fear bringing their families here. The VA, at least in Laredo, sometimes doctors did not want to come in because they were afraid of the border. Universities, they cannot get some professors because they are afraid of bringing their families down to the border. It affects us economically. Yes, it is the chamber of commerce speech but it is the truth.”

Here is Congressman Vela’s letter to Trump, in English:

June 6, 2016

Donald Trump
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Dear Mr. Trump,

As the United States Representative for the 34th Congressional District of Texas, I do not disagree with everything you say. I agree that the United States Government has largely failed our veterans, and those of us who represent the people in Congress have the obligation to rectify the Veterans Administration’s deficiencies. I also believe that the Mexican government and our own State Department must be much more aggressive in addressing cartel violence and corruption in Mexico, especially in the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas. And clearly, criminal felons who are here illegally should be immediately deported. There might even be a few other things on which we can agree.

However, your ignorant anti-immigrant opinions, your border wall rhetoric, and your recent bigoted attack on an American jurist are just plain despicable.

Your position with respect to the millions of undocumented Mexican workers who now live in this country is hateful, dehumanizing, and frankly shameful. The vast number of these individuals work in hotels, restaurants, construction sites, and agricultural fields across the United States. If I had to guess, your own business enterprises either directly or indirectly employ more of these workers than most other businesses in our country. Thousands of our businesses would come to a grinding halt if we invoked a policy that would require “mass deportation” as you and many of your supporters would suggest. That is precisely why the Republican-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce agrees that these workers deserve a national immigration policy that would give them a pathway to citizenship.

While you would build more and bigger walls on the U.S.-Mexico border, I would tear the existing wall to pieces. No doubt Mexico has its problems, but it is also our third-largest trading partner. U.S. Chamber of Commerce has documented that this trade relationship is responsible for six million jobs in the United States. In 2015, the U.S. imported $296 billion in goods from Mexico while exporting $235 billion in products manufactured in this country to Mexico. The Great Wall of China is historically obsolete, and President Ronald Reagan famously declared, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall … ” while urging the Soviet Union to destroy the barrier that divided West and East Berlin. Why any modern-thinking person would ever believe that building a wall along the border of a neighboring country, which is both our ally and one of our largest trading partners, is frankly astounding and asinine.

I should also point out that thousands of Americans of Mexican descent that you mistakenly refer to as “Mexicans” have valiantly served the United States in every conflict since the Civil War. While too numerous to list, let me educate you about a few of these brave Medal of Honor recipients:

Master Sergeant Jose Lopez, from my own hometown of Brownsville, Texas, fought in World War II. Lopez was awarded the United States’ highest military decoration for valor in combat – the Medal of Honor – for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Bulge, in which he single-handedly repulsed a German infantry attack, killing at least 100 enemy troops. If you ever run into Kris Kristofferson, ask him about Jose Lopez because as a young man Mr. Kristofferson recalls the 1945 parade honoring Sergeant Lopez as an event he will never forget.

In 1981, President Reagan presented Master Sergeant Roy Benavides with the Medal of Honor for fighting in what has been described as “6 hours in hell.” In Vietnam, Sergeant Benavides suffered 37 separate bullet, bayonet and shrapnel wounds to his face, leg, head and stomach while saving the lives of eight men. In fact, when awarding the honor to Benavides, President Reagan, turned to the media and said, “if the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it.”  

You have now descended to a new low in your racist attack of an American jurist, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, by calling him a “Mexican” simply because he ruled against you in a case in which you are being accused of fraud, among other accusations. Judge Curiel is one of 124 Americans of Hispanic descent who have served this country with honor and distinction as federal district judges. In fact, the first Hispanic American ever named to the federal bench in the United States, Judge Reynaldo G. Garza, was also from Brownsville, Texas, and was appointed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Before you dismiss me as just another “Mexican,” let me point out that my great-great grandfather came to this country in 1857, well before your own grandfather. His grandchildren (my grandfather and his brothers) all served our country in World War I and World War II. His great-grandson, my father, served in the U.S. Army and, coincidentally, was one of the first “Mexican” federal judges ever appointed to the federal bench.

I would like to end this letter in a more diplomatic fashion, but I think that you, of all people, understand why I cannot. I will not presume to speak on behalf of every American of Mexican descent, for every undocumented worker born in Mexico who is contributing to our country every day or, for that matter, every decent citizen in Mexico. But, I am sure that many of these individuals would agree with me when I say: ‘Mr. Trump, you’re a racist and you can take your border wall and shove it up your ass.’


Filemon Vela
Member of Congress

Here is Congressman Vela’s letter to Trump in Spanish:

6 de junio de 2016

Donald Trump
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Estimado Sr. Trump:

En mi capacidad como miembro de la Cámara de Representantes de EE. UU. por el 34º Distrito, no estoy en desacuerdo con todo lo que dice. Estoy de acuerdo con que el Gobierno de los Estados Unidos en general le ha fallado a los Veteranos —y estoy de acuerdo con que los que representamos a la ciudadanía en el Congreso tenemos la obligación de rectificar las carencias del Departamento de Asuntos de los Veteranos. También creo que el Gobierno de México y nuestro propio Departamento de Estado deben tomar medidas mucho más agresivas al combatir la violencia y la corrupción relacionadas con los cárteles en México, especialmente en la frontera con el estado mexicano de Tamaulipas. Y por supuesto que estoy de acuerdo con que los criminales que se encuentran en nuestro país de manera ilegal deberían ser deportados de inmediato. Incluso puede que haya algunas otras cosas en las que podamos estar de acuerdo.

Sin embargo, sus ignorantes opiniones antiinmigrantes, su discurso en torno al muro fronterizo, y su más reciente ataque lleno de prejuicios dirigido a un jurista estadounidense son totalmente repudiables.

Su postura con respecto a los millones de trabajadores mexicanos indocumentados quienes actualmente viven en este país es una llena de odio, inhumana y, francamente, es vergonzosa. La gran mayoría de estos individuos trabajan en hoteles, restaurantes, zonas de construcción y campos agrícolas a lo largo de los Estados Unidos. Estoy casi seguro de que sus propias empresas, ya sea de manera directa o indirecta, emplean un mayor número de estos trabajadores que la mayoría de las otras empresas de nuestro país. Miles de nuestras empresas se verían paralizadas por completo si optáramos por implementar una política de “deportaciones masivas” como sugieren usted y muchos de sus seguidores. Es precisamente por eso que la Cámara de Comercio de EE. UU. —un organismo de tendencia republicana— es de la opinión de que estos trabajadores se merecen una política nacional de inmigración que les ofrezca una vía a la ciudadanía.

Si bien usted pretende construir más y más grandes muros en la frontera de EE. UU. con México, yo por mi parte derrumbaría el que ahora existe. No cabe duda de que México tiene sus problemas, sin embargo, también es nuestro tercer socio comercial más grande. La Cámara de EE. UU. ha reportado que esta relación comercial ha generado seis millones de empleos en los Estados Unidos. En el 2015, Estados Unidos importó 296 mil millones de dólares en bienes de México, y exportó 235 mil millones de dólares en productos fabricados en este país a México. Históricamente, la Gran Muralla China ha quedado obsoleta, y todos recordamos las palabras del Presidente Ronald Reagan al insistirle al líder de la Unión Soviética que destruyera el muro que dividía a Berlín en dos partes: “Derribe este muro, señor Gorbachov…”. El hecho de que en este punto de la historia cualquier persona crea que construir un muro a lo largo de la frontera con un país vecino, que no sólo es nuestro aliado, sino también uno de nuestros mayores socios comerciales, me parece francamente desconcertante y asnal.

También vale la pena mencionar que cientos de estadounidenses de ascendencia mexicana a quienes usted incorrectamente se refiere como “mexicanos” han servido a los Estados Unidos con valentía en todos y cada uno de los conflictos que han surgido desde la Guerra Civil. Si bien son demasiados como para mencionarlos a todos, permítame ilustrarlo con información respecto a unos pocos de estos valientes hombres quienes han recibido la Medalla de Honor:

El Sargento Maestro José López, originario de Brownsville, Texas —mi ciudad de origen— luchó en la Segunda Guerra Mundial. López recibió la más alta condecoración militar de los Estados Unidos por su valor en el combate —la Medalla de Honor— por sus heroicas acciones durante la Batalla de las Ardenas, durante la cual repelió un ataque por parte de la infantería alemana y abatió al menos un centenar de soldados enemigos. Si alguna vez se topa con Kris Kristofferson, pregúntele acerca de José López. El señor Kristofferson recuerda el desfile de 1945 en honor al Sargento López como un evento inolvidable que presenció en su juventud.

En 1981, el Presidente Reagan le otorgó la Medalla de Honor al Sargento Maestro Roy Benavides por haber luchado durante lo que muchos han descrito como “6 horas en el infierno”. El Sargento Benavides recibió 37 heridas ocasionadas por balas, bayoneta y esquirlas en la cara, la pierna, la cabeza y el estómago al salvar la vida de ocho hombres. De hecho, al otorgarle el reconocimiento a Benavides, el Presidente Reagan se dirigió a los medios y dijo: “si la historia de su heroísmo fuese el guión de una película, nadie se lo creería”.

Con sus ataques racistas en contra del jurista estadounidense y juez federal de distrito, Gonzalo Curiel, y al referirse a él como un “mexicano” simplemente porque emitió un fallo en su contra en un caso en el cual se le acusa de fraude, entre otras cosas, ha caído usted más bajo que nunca. El Juez Curiel es uno de los 124 estadounidenses de ascendencia hispana que han servido a este país como jueces federales de distrito con honor y distinción. De hecho, el primer hispano que fue nombrado juez federal de los Estados Unidos, el Juez Reynaldo G. Garza, también era originario de Brownsville, Texas y fue nombrado por el Presidente John F. Kennedy en 1961.

Antes de que me desestime por ser sólo otro “mexicano”, permítame señalar que mi tatarabuelo llegó a este país en 1857, mucho antes de la llegada de su propio abuelo. Todos sus nietos (mi abuelo y sus hermanos) sirvieron a este país durante la Primera y la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Su bisnieto, mi padre, sirvió en el Ejército de los Estados Unidos y, casualmente, fue uno de los primeros jueces “mexicanos” asignados a la judicatura federal.

Me gustaría terminar esta carta de manera más diplomática, pero creo que usted entiende bien por qué me es imposible. No pretendo hablar por todos los estadounidenses de ascendencia mexicana, por aquellos trabajadores indocumentados nacidos en México quienes día tras día contribuyen tanto a nuestro país, ni tampoco por cada uno de los ciudadanos decentes de México. Sin embargo, estoy seguro de que muchos de estos individuos me apoyarían en lo que voy a decir: Señor Trump, es usted un racista, y puede meterse su muro fronterizo por el culo.