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Featured: Lorena Sáenz González, a former teacher and school administrator in Edinburg and McAllen, with her husband, Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen, an attorney who maintained a law practice in McAllen before being sworn into Congress, shown here in a portrait taken earlier this year.

Photograph Courtesy OFFICE OF CONGRESSMAN VICENTE GONZÁLEZ

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Three U.S. representatives scheduled to join Congressman Vicente González and Lorena Sáenz González for public Christmas Bash & Toy Drive  in McAllen on Monday night, December 2, 2019

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Area residents will have the chance to play Santa Claus/Mrs. Claus on Monday night, December 2, 2019, by each bringing one unwrapped new toy for deserving children as part of the third annual Christmas Bash & Toy Drive being hosted by Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen, and his wife, Lorena Sáenz González.

In return, that generosity will be rewarded with the opportunity to share holiday time with the Valley’s congressional delegation at the event, which is being held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Embassy Suites (Palm Crossing) in McAllen, located at 800 Convention Center Blvd., and hosted by the González family.

In addition to meeting in a social setting with Congressman Vicente González and Lorena Sáenz González, the gathering will also feature Congressman Filemón Vela, D-Brownsville, and Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.

Perhaps symbolic of many of the Valley’s immigrant constituents, Congressman Adriano Espaillat, D-New York, who in 2017 became the first former undocumented immigrant to be elected to Congress, also will be a special guest.

“It has been an amazing year full of personal and public accomplishments,” said Vicente González. “We also encourage you to get into the spirit of the season and participate in the joy of giving.”

González’ District 15 is anchored in Hidalgo County, with Edinburg and McAllen among the major population centers, and stretches northward through Jim Hogg, Brooks, Duval, Live Oak, Karnes, and Guadalupe counties.

Vela’s District 34, also anchored in the Rio Grande Valley, includes Cameron County, Willacy County, and southeast Hidalgo County, also continues northward through Kenedy, Kleberg, Jim Wells, Bee, Goliad, Dewitt, and Gonzáles counties.

Cuellar’s District 28, in which all of Mission is located, includes southwestern Hidalgo County, as well as its population center of Webb County, and goes northeast through Zapata, Webb, McMullen, Atascosa, and Wilson counties.

The United States is divided into 435 congressional districts, each with a population of about 710,000 individuals. Each district elects a representative to the U.S. House of Representatives for a two-year term. Representatives are also called congressmen/congresswomen.

Congressman Vicente González
Biography

González is currently serving his second term in the United States Congress as the elected representative of the 15th Congressional District of Texas which encompasses the growing suburban counties of Brooks, Duval, Guadalupe, Jim Hogg, Karnes, and Live Oak as well as portions of Hidalgo, and Wilson counties. Congressman Vicente Gonzalez came to Washington to continue fighting for South Texans and ensure that individuals and communities have the resources and opportunities they need to succeed.

González earned his GED in 1985 before attending Del Mar College where he received an Associate’s Degree in Banking and Finance in 1990. He worked his way through college at Embry Riddle University where many of his classmates were active-duty military personnel. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Aviation in 1992 and later earned a Juris Doctorate Degree from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law (now Texas A&M School of Law) in 1996. 

While attending law school, González worked as an intern in the office of former Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz. In 1997, González opened his law practice, V. González & Associates.

González was influenced by his father, a Korean War veteran, to help individuals fight for their rights and practiced law for 20 years. He says he stands with working families wronged by powerful corporations and took on unscrupulous vendors, recovering millions in school bond revenues for taxpayers. In Congress, he is fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare and to ensure that veterans, military members, and their families have the care and compensation they earned through their service. He is committed to improving health care for those who need it most: children, people with special needs, veterans, and seniors.

As a small business owner, González says he understands the challenges facing American businesses. He serves on the House Committee on Financial Services. In Congress, he is working across party lines and with local, state, and federal government to expand economic opportunity for all. He serves on the Subcommittees on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets; Housing, Community Development and Insurance; and Diversity and Inclusion.

In his second term, González was appointed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee to promote stability, safety, success, and security around the world. In the 115th Congress, González advocated for revamping American foreign policy in Central America, supported progress for the State of Israel, celebrated the inauguration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and a fresh start for U.S.-Mexico bilateral relations, and sought the de-escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula. He serves on the Subcommittees on Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade; and Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment.

Congressman Filemón Vela
Biography

Vela represents the 34th Congressional District of Texas, which is anchored in Cameron County in the southernmost tip of Texas and runs nearly 300 miles north to Gonzáles County. Brownsville is the largest city in the 34th District, which also includes the King Ranch, Kingsville Naval Air Station, and the historic Texas town of Goliad. Land and seaports are critical to the 34th District’s agricultural producers and the region’s rapidly expanding energy production facilities.

Born in Harlingen and raised in Brownsville, Vela has deep roots in South Texas. His ancestors purchased land from the McAllen family to establish the Laguna Seca Ranch where the first citrus orchard in Hidalgo County was planted. Vela’s father was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as a federal judge in the Southern District of Texas. His mother, Blanca Sánchez Vela, served as the first female mayor of Brownsville.

Vela attended Saint JosephAcademy in Brownsville. After graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he attended the University of Texas School of Law. His interest in public service grew from his work helping individuals seek justice in state and federal courts as an attorney for more than 20 years in South Texas.

He brings his expertise on border issues to his work as a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security where he was appointed by House leadership to serve as the top Democratic member of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.   

He also serves on the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and on the Committee’s Task Force on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Border Caucus, he has led efforts to reform the nation’s immigration laws and expand investments in border communities and infrastructure, including ports and roads to expand trade.

Vela also sits on the House Committee on Agriculture.  He was the only Texas Democrat appointed by House leadership to serve as a negotiator on the Conference Committee which drafted the most recent Farm Bill, a comprehensive law, which sets agriculture policy and funding for nutrition programs, including food stamps, for the next five years.  Vela is a member of the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry and the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.

In Congress, Vela says has been a strong advocate for immigrant rights, education programs including Head Start and Pell Grants for college students, and South Texas’ communities’ federal healthcare centers. He is currently focused on bringing peace and security to Matamoros and Reynosa, and he is working to bring jobs and economic development to South Texas through many efforts including transforming the Port of Brownsville into a competitive deepwater port. 

Vela is married to Rose Vela, a Republican and former Justice on the Texas Court of Appeals, and they reside in Brownsville.

Congressman Henry Cuellar
Biography

Serving his eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Cuellar represents Texas’ 28th Congressional District of Texas, which includes the cities of Laredo, Mission, Rio Grande City, and San Antonio. 

Cuellar supports equal opportunity for men and women of all backgrounds. His legislative principles are based on the belief that education, family values, and hard work should open doors to new opportunities for all Americans. 

Cuellar serves as the only Texas Democrat on the powerful U.S. House Appropriations Committee. He is the Vice-Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, while also serving on the Defense Subcommittee and the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food, and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.  Congressman Cuellar was named Chief Deputy Whip for the 116th Congress, where he works in a bipartisan manner to serve the American people.

As one of eight children born to migrant farmworkers in Laredo, Cuellar said he was raised with a passion for education and an unwavering work ethic, as he sought to attain his educational goals. As the most degreed member of Congress, he credits his education by informing his public service to Texas.

After earning his Associate Degree from Laredo Community College Summa Cum Laude, he enrolled in Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. There, while working part-time jobs to accord his graduate degree, the congressman still managed to graduate Cum Laude, a reflection to his academic commitment. When he returned to Texas, Cuellar completed a Master’s Degree in International Trade at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) and earned both a Juris Doctor and Ph.D. in Government from the University of Texas at Austin. Recently, Dr. Cuellar received a Professional Certificate in Budget and Finance from Georgetown University.

In 1981, Cuellar started practicing law and later became a licensed customs broker in 1983 and taught at Laredo State University (TAMIU) as an Adjunct Professor for International Commercial Law from 1984 to 1986. The following year, Cuellar decided to fully dedicate his life to public service and served as a Texas State Representative, Texas Secretary of State and now as a U.S. Congressman. Dr. Cuellar has been an educator, lawyer, and small business owner.

Cuellar and his wife, Imelda, reside in Laredo, with their two daughters, Christy and Catie.

Congressman Adriano Espaillat
Biography

Espaillat represents New York’s Thirteenth Congressional District. He was sworn into office on January 3, 2017, during the 115th Congress.  

First elected to Congress in 2016, Espaillat is serving his second term in Congress where he serves as a member of the influential U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the House Small Business Committee.  

He is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and serves in a leadership role as CHC Whip.  He is also chairman of the CHC Task Force for Transportation, Infrastructure and Housing.  

Espaillat is a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus and Deputy Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). Espaillat’s congressional district includes Harlem, East Harlem, West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill, and the north-west Bronx. 

During the 115th Congress, Espaillat was among the top three freshmen members to introduce and pass legislation, including his bill, H.R. 4406, which designated the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 99 Macombs Place in New York, New York as the Tuskegee Airmen Post Office Building.  In 2018, Quorum named Espaillat as one of the top 10 most active Members of Congress on Twitter.

A steadfast champion for working- and middle-class New Yorkers, Espaillat says he is a staunch advocate of a fair living wage, immediate and effective investments in affordable housing, meaningful criminal justice reform, infrastructure improvements, expanded youth programs, and better educational opportunities.  

Throughout the tenure of his career in public service, Espaillat has been a vocal advocate for protecting tenants, improving schools, and making serious, smart investments in economic development, job creation, and environmental protection.  Prior to coming to Congress, he served as a New York State Senator during which he represented the neighborhoods of Marble Hill, Inwood, Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights, West Harlem, the Upper West Side, Hell’s Kitchen, Clinton, and Chelsea.

While in the New York State Senate, Espaillat served as the Ranking Member of the Senate Housing, Construction, and Community Development Committee; Chairman of the Senate Puerto Rican/Latino Caucus; and as a member of the Environmental Conservation, Economic Development, Codes, Insurance, and Judiciary committees. Prior to his tenure as a state senator, he served in the New York State Assembly, and in 1996 became the first Dominican-American elected to a state legislature.  In 2002, Espaillat was elected chair of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.

Prior to entering the elected office, Espaillat served as the Manhattan Court Services Coordinator for the NYC Criminal Justice Agency, a non-profit organization that provides indigent legal services and works to reduce unnecessary pretrial detention and post-sentence incarceration costs.  He later worked as Director of the Washington Heights Victims Services Community Office, an organization offering counseling and other services to families of victims of homicides and other crimes, and as the Director of Project Right Start, a national initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to combat substance abuse by educating the parents of pre-school children.

Espaillat is a father and grandfather.

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For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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