I come from a working-class family and I have always been with the people. When I was a young boy, my mother would take me to visit family in Monterrey, Mexico. As a young adult, I backpacked throughout Latin America in awe of the hospitality and generosity of people living there.
I have spent my entire adult life living and working in South Texas – fighting as a lawyer for the less fortunate – and I have seen, first-hand, the value that immigrants, especially DREAMers, bring to our country. More than 70 percent of DREAMers are pursuing a higher education and 75 percent are gainfully employed.
There is no question that DREAMers are Americans in every way except one—on paper. I have co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to give our DREAMers a pathway to citizenship and another that would allow them to enlist in the military and earn legal status upon honorable completion of their contracts. I condemned President Donald J. Trump’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September 2017 and sounded the alarm when a group of DACA recipients was detained at the Falfurrias Border Patrol Station later that month. Thanks in part to this effort, the Department of Homeland Security altered its policy at checkpoints across Texas. As you can see, my support for these individuals is resolute.
At the same time that DACA was unravelling, funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), was also close to lapsing. CHIP provides healthcare to 9 million children across the country, including 1,075,214 in Texas and 55,241 in the Congressional District that I represent. Once again, I pledged my support for our children and a long-term reauthorization for this critical program.
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded and operational. Unfortunately, a legislative fix to protect DACA recipients was not included despite an earlier promise from President Trump. No one should ever make a promise they cannot keep.
The resolution, however, did include a six-year reauthorization for CHIP, which is due to run out of funding in February 2018. With CHIP set to expire in a matter of weeks, and tens of thousands of children about to lose their healthcare, I believed passing legislation reauthorizing the program for six years, the longest the program has ever been reauthorized, to be the responsible vote.
In addition, our country is facing one of the most serious outbreaks of the flu. Shutting the government would halt research being conducted by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of more than 30 children.
Supporting the resolution to fund CHIP, the CDC, and to keep the government open did not diminish my desire to help thousands of DREAMers obtain permanent status.
Since coming to Congress fixing our broken immigration system has been a priority of mine. Over the past months, I have been working with the Administration, Congressional leadership, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Problem Solvers Caucus to negotiate a deal on DACA and to prevent the construction of a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. I have brought Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to visit with La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) and Central American refugees at the Humanitarian Respite Center, partnered with Congressman Filemon Vela to “Build Bridges, Not Walls,” and worked with my neighbors to the west Congressmen Henry Cuellar and Will Hurd to support commonsense solutions for border security and emphasize the need for positive relationships with our neighbors in Mexico and Central America. I will continue to do this because I want South Texans to be heard, and not left behind.
I came to Congress to govern – to work for all. I took an oath to serve the people of South Texas – seniors, people with disabilities, and children that need healthcare now.
It is disheartening that leadership at LUPE is now being critical of a vote to guarantee six years of health insurance for thousands of children in the Rio Grande Valley, avert a costly government shutdown, and to keep the government open so that leadership in Congress could continue working together in good faith, to reach a compromise on DACA.
My responsibility as a Congressman is to each and every citizen of the 15th District of Texas, not just some, and that responsibility is carried out, in part, through my votes in the U.S. House of Representatives. As representatives, we cannot blind ourselves to the facts. We should always be smart, not just loud in all we do.