Rep. Filemon Vela, who quit the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in protest over proposed militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, wants to rejoin, he tells National Journal.
Why? “I think my point has been well made,” the Texas Democrat said.
Vela’s July resignation from the CHC was a sign of the internal debate taking place among Democrats over the Senate immigration bill, and particularly the $46 billion border-surge amendment from Republican Sens. Bob Corker and John Hoeven.
“The reason I left was because at that time I felt that there was a movement afoot, not just within the Hispanic Caucus, but here on the entire Democratic side, to support Corker-Hoeven,” said Vela, whose district includes the border. “I just felt so strongly about the fact that we don’t need more walls, we don’t need to quadruple the size of our Border Patrol agency. It was just something I felt I had to do at the time.”
After the Senate immigration bill passed, CHC Chairman Rubén Hinojosa said in a statement that “the bill they passed is in line with the CHC’s Principles on Immigration Reform and provides all immigrants the opportunity to earn citizenship.” He later emphasized the CHC hadn’t taken an official position on the Senate bill.
A near carbon copy of the Senate bill has been introduced in the House, and has a long list of mostly Democratic cosponsors. But, notably, the Senate border-security amendment has been replaced by one from Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, which calls for the Homeland Security Department to first develop a border plan, subject to congressional approval, that would eliminate 90 percent of illegal crossings within five years. The McCaul bill has support from Democrats and Republicans alike.
“The Corker-Hoeven amendment is, for all practical purposes, dead,” Vela said.
Vela also wants to rejoin the CHC because “every member of the Hispanic Caucus are good friends of mine” and he wants to participate in the CHC institute’s programs that brings students to Washington from around the country.
The CHC is set to meet Thursday. At least 60 percent of the members have to vote to approve Vela’s readmittance. There are currently 26 members.
Will Vela have trouble getting back in? “I don’t think so,” he said, adding laughingly, “I haven’t had to lobby for a vote yet.”