McALLEN, RGV – President Obama has led the tributes paid to Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, who announced Friday he would not seek re-election.

“For nearly two decades, Rubén Hinojosa  has proudly served the people of south Texas with dedication, passion, and distinction. As Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rubén strengthened Latino communities in his district and across the country, and fought to fix our broken immigration system.

“During his 10 terms in Congress, he has helped lead the fight to protect our most vulnerable families, make higher education more affordable, and expand job-training programs for every American willing to work hard. I’m grateful for Rubén’s tireless efforts, and I look forward to continuing to work with him throughout the remainder of his term. Michelle and I wish Rubén and his family well in whatever the future may hold,” Obama said in a statement issued Friday evening.

U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi offered her tribute earlier in the day:

“When Rubén Hinojosa retires at the end of this term, Congress will lose one of our most dedicated champions for advancing the education and opportunity of all Americans. For almost 20 years, Congressman Hinojosa’s towering leadership has driven progress for aspiring students, rural families, and Latino communities across America,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“As Ranking Member of the Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee, Congressman Hinojosa has been an outstanding advocate for Pell Grants, Perkins Loans, Hispanic Serving Institutions, robust STEM education, and effective and affordable higher education for all Americans. During his time as Chair, he led the CHC with strength and energy in the fight to pass comprehensive immigration reform that respects families, honors our values, and strengthens our country. He has been a vital voice for expanding the financial literacy of hard-working American families.”

Pelosi said each and every day, Hinojosa has “strived to open new doors of opportunity to young people of every background and every community.” She said his “deep commitment to higher education and to empowering the Latino community has moved the American Dream within reach for countless families.” As Congressman Hinojosa moves on to his next endeavor, we wish him, his wife Martha, and the entire Hinojosa family all the best, Pelosi added.

Hinojosa, a former Mercedes school board member and South Texas College board chairman, has represented the people of the 15ht Congressional District of Texas for 19 years. He announced he would not seek re-election at a news conference at Nuevo Santander Gallery in McAllen on Friday morning. Among those who spoke in glowing terms of Hinojosa’s legacy in South Texas were former UT-Pan American President Blandina ‘Bambi’ Cardenas, Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia, UT-Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Chairman Carlos Cardenas, Hidalgo County Veterans Services Officer Emilio De Los Santos, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD Superintendent Daniel King, Region One Education Service Center Administrator of College, Career & Life Readiness Tina Atkins, and Congressman Filemon Vela. Hinojosa’s wife, Marty and daughter Kaitlyn also spoke at the news conference.

Later, Hinojosa’s congressional office issued this statement from the Mercedes Democrat:

“It is with a profound sense of gratitude and emotion that I announce my decision not to seek re-election to the U.S. Congress as your representative of the 15th congressional district of Texas. I wish to thank my lovely and supportive wife, Marty; and my five children, Ruben Jr., Laura, Iliana, Kaity and Karén, who have all supported me throughout my service in Congress.

“I want to thank each and every one of you who are here and also those who could not attend today. All of you have been instrumental in helping us accomplish so much in the last 20 years. I would also like to give a special thanks to the people of the 15th District who have entrusted me to represent their interests in Congress by electing me to 10 consecutive terms.

“I have enjoyed a career that extends over 50 years, with over 40 years in elected positions in public service beginning with my first office serving on the Mercedes school board. I went on to become a member of the Texas State Board of Education, a founding member and co-chair of South Texas College and the South Texas Independent School District.

“For the last 20 years, it has been my privilege to represent the voters of the 15th District. During that time, I fought to improve the quality of life of South Texas families, children and communities. I worked tirelessly to improve education, economic development, health care, international trade and transportation.

“In the area of education, I worked with my colleagues to strengthen federal programs from cradle to career. I am most proud of my leadership in making college more affordable and accessible for students, especially low-income and under-represented students.

“As a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, I led the effort to create a separate federal designation for Hispanic Serving Institutions. One of the largest gains in Pell grants occurred under my watch as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. Now students can obtain Pell grants for almost $6,000, making college more affordable and within reach for millions of students.

“Through the enactment of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, I also championed the inclusion of $2.5 billion in targeted investments for HBCUs, HSIs, Tribal Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions.

“With the University of Texas Pan American and now UT-Rio Grande Valley, I helped establish HESTEC to expand career opportunities in the STEM fields for Latino and Latina students. It is recognized as a national model for recruiting and strengthening the educational pipeline in the STEM fields.

“I am very proud to have supported our nation’s Dreamers. These students deserve a path to U.S. citizenship. After all, this is the only country they have ever known. As the proud of son of Mexican immigrants, I remain hopeful that Congress will enact comprehensive immigration reform for future generations of Dreamers and immigrant families.

“For Hidalgo County, I brought $300 million in federal funding to reinforce our levees and to stem flooding from major storms. I led the effort to secure the construction of two international bridges, the Anzalduas Bridge and the Donna Bridge, which expanded international trade and spurred tremendous economic growth in our region.

“I am also very proud of my work to advance the designation of the I-69 and I-2 interstate highways, which represent a major accomplishment of our time – and one that many said would never happen. We accomplished it through determination and team work.

“I will finish my term for the people of my district when my term expires at the end of next year. After that, I will pursue the possibility of serving as a distinguished visiting professor at a university, as a vice chancellor of a university system or working in the private sector. 

“I am delighted that the 15th District has many rising, impressive young leaders, and I look forward to candidates, who, like me, will continue to stand up for our community and for what we believe in. As I start this next phase of my life, I am excited about the opportunities that the future holds, and I look forward to serving the public in new ways and on many other levels in our communities here in Deep South Texas.

“My heart will always be in the 15th District. Thank you very much for all of your support over the years and God bless America.”

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer released this statement on Hinojosa:

“I want to thank my friend Rubén Hinojosa for his service to the people of Texas’s Fifteenth Congressional District and to the House of Representatives. Since 1997, he has represented his constituents as a tireless advocate for equal rights, equal opportunity, and the American Dream. His work, including as a former Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in support of efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform has been rooted in his conviction that our nation is strongest when it is welcoming of those who seek to better their lives and contribute to our economy in the process.

“As a senior member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, and as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, Rep. Hinojosa has fought for federal investment in programs that teach critical job skills and help make our workforce more competitive. He has left an indelible mark on Texas and our country, and I join in wishing him well, along with his wife Marty and their family, as he prepares to retire at the end of next year.”

Hinojosa is a former chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The congresswoman who succeeded him in this role, Rep. Linda T. Sánchez of California issued this statement on behalf of the CHC:

“Throughout his career, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa has stood up and fought for minority communities in America. He is one of the longest-serving Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and most recently served as Chair in the 113th Congress. During his chairmanship, the CHC helped pass a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate, worked with President Obama on pushing the immigration executive actions, and stood in defense of unaccompanied minors.

“Rubén knows how to build coalitions and has a reputation of bringing together the Hispanic, Black, and Asian Pacific American Caucuses to fight for issues like education, voting rights, and immigration. When he departs next year, he will leave behind a 20-year legacy centered on a commitment to the Latino community, education and financial literacy. On behalf of the Caucus, we thank Rubén and wish him and his family all the best.”

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, who calls the Rio Grande Valley home, issued the following statement:

“On behalf of Texas Democrats, I commend Congressman Rubén Hinojosa for his hard work and tenacity as a public servant. Congressman Hinojosa has fought and championed the toughest challenges facing the families of the Rio Grande Valley. From focusing on improving our education system to making sure our brave men and women in uniform receive access to healthcare, Rubén has been there for Texans.”

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series on Congressman Rubén Hinojosa’s retirement announcement. Parts Two and Three will be posted in our next edition.