Democrat Who Left Congressional Hispanic Caucus Wants Back In

Rep. Filemon Vela of Texas left in protest over the proposed border surge.

A view of the US Capitol on January 27, 2014 in Washington.
National Journal
Elahe Izad
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Elahe Izad
Feb. 5, 2014, 10:02 a.m.

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.”

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