I mentioned in the other room that I’ve been coming to the Valley so long, I don’t view you as constituents, I view you as friends.
And, many of you have noted that your party affiliation is not the same as mine. But, there are things that transcend political parties. And I think friendships and relationships and bonds of trust do transcend those party differences. And I’m humbled that each of you would say the kind things you have said about me and I appreciate it.
I want to close that thought by Mayor Saenz who talked about his Laredo and his people. I really feel like you are my people. And I feel that way very deeply. So, I’m grateful for the opportunity, mayor, to hear from each of the leaders around the table in the other room and I know these are times of great uncertainty and a lot of pain. People are suffering for things that they didn’t do, but were done to them. I know many of the folks here at Doctors Renaissance Hospital and all the health care providers here in the Valley have been on the frontlines. There are people strangely enough that we call essential, which I guess means that there are some people we consider are not essential. But the fact is all of you are essential to the well-being of this community and the Valley.
I know some days it may seem like the crisis is never going to end. It has been a long, hard time. Putting food on the table for many has been very difficult because they simply don’t have a pay check coming in the front door. Or, if you are a parent with children at home, trying to struggle between doing your job virtually, if you can, and educating your children at the same time. Or, not being able to visit an elderly parent or grandparent in a nursing home. You can’t hug them because it would endanger their wellbeing.
But, I am doing everything I can. I am not a healthcare provider. I am not the one on the frontline doing this heroic work, for which we are all so grateful. But I am doing everything I can to support them and you. And I just want to tell you that we will emerge from this like we always have, stronger and better for it. We are going to learn some lessons and hopefully reduce the likelihood of something like this happening again. But we will emerge from this stronger and better. The reason we will do that is because we will do this together, as we always have.
And I know, especially in Washington, D.C., where the blame game is a world class sport, everybody wants to blame everybody else. You don’t have the luxury of that as local leaders. You can’t blame somebody else because you are the ones responsible and accountable to the people and that is the way it should be.
So, while none of this has been perfect, we have learned some lessons and hopefully provided needed and welcome support for my people here in the Rio Grande Valley. So far, we have delivered $530 million worth of relief here in the Valley to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and I know more is needed, as we heard in the next room.
I am willing to work with anybody. I am willing to work with anybody who will help me get the job done for my people. We have had some great successes. Henry Cuellar’s name came up, from Laredo, Texas. Henry is my partner in so many issues that relate to the border but so are the mayors and judges and other elected officials who were here today. They have been an indispensable partner in making progress for the people of the Valley. We pushed through some pretty impactful legislation for this region, boosting, as Sam Vale was talking about, the public-private partnerships in international trade and delivering disaster relief after these hurricanes that never quite seem to let us alone.
And then ensuring safety here along the US-Mexico border. Mayor Saenz again, I will invoke… we talked about our relationship with Mexico. Usually, what I say is, the United States and México are like an old married couple. We can’t get a divorce, we have got to make the marriage work. And so we will simply work through it together because we know it is in the best interest of both of our countries to make it work.
We know, mentioning natural disasters, we have had a lot of challenges dealing with flooding and the like. And working with Mayor Hernandez and Judge Cortez and other local leaders to make sure that the levee system is safe and adequate to protect our communities when the next natural disaster strikes is very important. We have heard about the importance of transportation and infrastructure. Again, the border benefits the entire nation. I don’t think you get the credit that you deserve for the contributions the border makes to the entire nation.
And then things like trade, which we heard brought up numerous times. The US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement is an economic boon to the Valley and to Texas. About 13 million jobs, I believe the U.S. Chamber has said, we’ve been benefiting from NAFTA and now will continue to benefit from the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
And I know nobody has mentioned this but let me just put a plug in for the census. It is really important that every person be counted here in the Valley and across Texas and across the nation. This information is really important for our schools. It is important for our transportation infrastructure. It is important that everybody be counted. And I know it is a particular challenge during the COVID pandemic.
We heard the comments about broadband access, how it is no longer just a convenience or something nice to have, so you can check your Facebook page, or maybe tweet as some famous people do from time to time. But it is a necessity now and we have heard its impact. Dr. Perez was talking about the impact from the access to healthcare. And Congress can and will do things to make it more broadly available. We cannot make tele-health available or distance learning available without access to the Internet. That is definitely one of my priorities.
And I am particularly proud of how the GEAR-UP For Success Act has helped families along the border. You know not every child who’s in middle school has a parent who has been to college and knows how to help those children prepare for college. And decisions they make as middle school students will determine their ability to go on and continue their education. So I definitely support the GEAR-UP for Success Act, which has helped folks here in the Valley, tremendously, but (also) across the state and across the nation.
And let me just say a word about the DREAMers. I have been involved in the negotiations and the debates and battles over immigration since I have been in the Senate. And it is one of my greatest disappointments that we have not been able to make more progress than we have. And usually, when we start talking about the DACA recipients or DREAMers, they are just considered a piece of the puzzle. I will give you this if you give me that. I don’t feel comfortable doing that any more. These young people have done nothing wrong. We don’t blame children for the mistakes of their parents. And I believe that they need a legal, legislative solution. I voted for the Secure and Succeed Act in 2018, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for the 1.8 million young adults and after the Supreme Court rendered its decision this summer, I said we need a permanent legislative solution. But what I have learned in Washington, DC, is, too often, people, they don’t really want to solve the problem. They want the issue for the next campaign. And that is the challenge immigration has always presented. People want the issue because they know it is divisive. They know it generates a lot of emotion. And they think it may help them in the next election. I think that is very sad. And something certainly I want to avoid.
So, you know, there is so much we can talk about along the border. Some of the challenges we have relating to drugs and human trafficking and the like. We all understand the challenges associated with that. But I don’t think we need to disparage anybody or a region in talking about these issues that we all understand. As you know, I am a recovering judge, and a justice and a recovering attorney general and a current United States senator. But I do have a lot of empathy for the victims of these crimes that particularly attack the most vulnerable people, young boys and young girls. And hearing their stories and having the ability to actually do something to help them, like creating the first ever Crime Victims Compensation Fund that helps trafficking victims specifically, that gives me a great sense of gratitude and satisfaction that we were able to do something. Just to find them a safe place to live, while they begin their process of recovery.
So let me close by saying, I know I have spoke about a number of things, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your generosity and your friendship and how committed I am to continue to work with you. I guess we have too much, frankly, partisanship in Washington. We don’t need any more because that breeds dysfunction. What we need is more problem-solvers. People who, regardless of political party, are looking to find the common ground and make progress. That is something I am privileged to have a chance to do as your senator and let me just say, we have done a lot but we have got a lot more we need to do.
So thank you and god bless all of you.
Editor’s Note: The above commentary was given by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn at a campaign event at Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. The event was held to announce the support of over 100 South Texas leaders for Cornyn’s re-election. Before the announcement, Cornyn met with many of them ‘in the next room’ to hear what they would like him to do for the region in Washington, D.C. We will have commentary from some of the South Texas leaders backing Cornyn in our next edition.
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