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Congressmen Dave Loebsack, Filemon Vela, Rick Nolan, Matt Cartwright and Tim Walz on board an oil rig being built at the Port of Brownsville.

BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Last week, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela brought five of his Congressional colleagues to the Rio Grande Valley to learn more about the region.

The five were U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, of the 9th District of New Jersey, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, of the 2nd District of Iowa, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, of the 17th District of Pennsylvania, U.S. Representative Tim Walz, of the 1st District of Minnesota, and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, of the 8th District of Minnesota. All five are Democrats

The delegation visited the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge, the West Rail Project in Brownsville, and the Port of Brownsville. It concluded with a reception on South Padre Island.

Among the people the congressmen visited with were UT-Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez, Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority Executive Director Pete Sepulveda, Port of Brownsville Director Eddie Campirano, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance CEO Israel Rocha and students with UT-Brownsville’s STARGATE project. At the Donna bridge the congressmen met up with Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske. This meeting was private, the request of Kerlikowske.

The congressmen did not seem to buy the stereotypical line of many from northern states that the border region is a war zone. Indeed, they seemed to know how important trade and commerce with Mexico is for their congressional districts.

Rep. Cartwright said he was struck by the fact that he saw no empty storefronts as he took a morning jog down 10th Street in McAllen. He said that is not, unfortunately, the case in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in his congressional district.

Congressman Vela believes visits by members of Congress from other parts of the United States can only help improve understanding of the challenges facing the Rio Grande Valley and the South Texas border region.

Editor’s Note: In the coming days, the Rio Grande Guardian will bring news about some of the presentations made to the visiting Congressmen.