WESLACO - Rep. Filemon Vela (TX-34) hosted a press conference at the RGV Partnership office on Monday to speak about the recent trip he and several RGV community leaders made to the District of Columbia. Joining Rep. Vela were RGV Partnership President Sergio Contreras; RGV Partnership Chair-elect Daniel G. Gurwitz; STC Trustee Rose Benavidez; Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council Executive Director Ron Garza; and Bobby Villarreal, district director for Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15).
The trip was the first of its kind for the Valley as the over 40 community leaders converged to represent the area to different federal agencies and congressional committees. They endeavored to change the current national narrative about the region to one more that is more positive and accurate to ultimately receive funding for various projects and influence policies that affect the Valley.
“Clearly the political rhetoric and the emotional feelings about immigration and border security cloud our ability to take that message that a lot of people know about - which is that there is a very robust working and business relationship between the United States and Mexico and between every state in the United States and Mexico - It’s the emotion … that kind of stifles our ability to get that information out to the rest of the world,” Rep. Vela said.
Each representative member spoke about their experience in the District and the collective effort to foster good relationships with congressmen and congresswomen there. Overall, the trip was deemed a success, with the community leaders saying they came back ready to hit the ground running.
“We were able to engage agency staff in conversations about local issues, and we did it in a way that didn’t separate Hidalgo County from Cameron, Starr from Willacy, and Brownsville from Harlingen and McAllen,” Gurwitz said. “Everybody was on board with all the issues and helping educate ... people about issues that are important to us like education, aerospace, healthcare, energy, infrastructure, the ports of entry …, transportation and international trade.”
Although they couldn’t elaborate on specific funding or policy as congressional efforts continue, the members did say there are some exciting projects in the works, with all enthusiastic for the Valley’s future.