House links: Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16)i
Campaign links: Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16)i
Silvestre Reyes Congressional Candidate Texas District 16
Congressman Silvestre Reyes represents the people of El Paso, Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since first serving in the Army in 1966, he has dedicated four decades of his life to public service.
Silvestre Reyes was born and raised in Canutillo, Texas and he is the first of 10 children. He graduated from Canutillo High School and received his Associate’s Degree from El Paso Community College. He attended the University of Texas at Austin before serving in the United States Army in 1966. He served in the Army from 1966 – 1968, and fought in the Vietnam War as a helicopter crew chief in the 282nd Combat Assault Helicopter Company known as “the Blackcats.” Following his service in Vietnam, he joined the United States Border Patrol as an agent in 1969. In 1984, Reyes was promoted to Sector Chief, becoming the first Hispanic Sector Chief in Border Patrol history.
As Sector Chief, Reyes was widely recognized as one of America’s strongest and most effective leaders for border security. In McAllen and El Paso, Reyes implemented new innovative programs and strategies such as “Operation Hold the Line,” the Border Patrol’s Canine Program, and the Border Patrol’s National Anti-Drug School Education Program and reinstated the Border Patrol Horse Patrol. As a result of his leadership, the level of unauthorized entries in the El Paso sector dramatically decreased, earning him recognition from the White House, Department of Justice, and others. Reyes retired in 1995, capping an impressive 26 ½ year career.
In 1996, the people of El Paso sent Reyes to Washington, D.C. to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2010, Reyes was elected by his constituents for an eighth term.
Since coming to Congress, Reyes has been instrumental in the expansion of Fort Bliss, a driving force of El Paso economic growth. In 1995, prior to Reyes’ election to Congress, the Department of Defense directed that the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment be relocated from Fort Bliss to Fort Carson, Colorado, leaving the post without any heavy armored brigades and threatening the viability of a vital economic driver for El Paso. Through his position on the Armed Services Committee, Reyes worked to prevent the Department of Defense from closing Fort Bliss as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) process.
As a result of the efforts by Reyes, and other community leaders who were united to save Fort Bliss from closure, the post received the top ranking in “military value” among all 97 Army installations in the United States. Through the BRAC consolidation, Fort Bliss emerged with the largest net gain of active duty troops, and is expected to grow by 24,000 active duty personnel by 2013. These additional troops at Fort Bliss will expand the post’s economic impact on the local economy from an annual $1.7 billion in 2005 to $6.4 billion annually beginning in 2013.
Reyes continues to push for funding to prepare Fort Bliss for the large influx of troops who will continue to arrive over the next several years. He successfully secured the authorization of nearly $1 billion in the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill to construct a new state-of-the-art William Beaumont Army Medical Center campus that will serve Fort Bliss troops, their dependents, and veterans. He also secured an additional $800 million for critical construction projects in the 2010 budget.
With his extensive experience and expertise in border security, Reyes is an influential leader on issues involving immigration and border security. Reyes was instrumental in developing the annual Border Issues Conference in Washington, D.C. and the Border Security Conference at UTEP, which featured Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan, and other top level officials. In March 2009, Reyes was tapped by then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to lead a high-level Congressional Delegation to meet with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico to discuss his efforts to combat drug-related violence and assess the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to assist the Mexican government.
Congressman Reyes has been a key supporter of the Medical Center of the Americas. In September 2009, Reyes brought U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to El Paso to visit the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in an effort to push for additional resources for both the school and for the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation. In February of 2010, Reyes was instrumental in securing the unprecedented visit of a high level team of representatives from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to El Paso to meet with local leaders in health and life sciences from the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, the University of Texas at El Paso, and others. In July 2010, Congressman Reyes also brought Department of Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius to El Paso to participate in the 10th annual U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission (BHC) meeting and to tour the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine. These important visits help bring national attention to border health issues, specifically health disparities in our community. Congressman Reyes was a strong supporter of the historic passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2009. This landmark legislation will help improve health care in the border region and will significantly improve the quality of life for many residents by providing access to affordable health care coverage to those who currently have none.
Reyes has fought to expand access to higher education by supporting increases in the Pell grant, lowering interest rates on student loans, and creating incentives for students to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Reyes is a founder and chair of the House Congressional Diversity and Innovation Caucus. In addition, he has worked with his peers in the House to strengthen K-12 education by advocating for Title I funding increases, Impact Aid, IDEA resources, and comprehensive education policies that strengthen the school lunch program, expand literacy, and promote parental involvement. For his efforts, Congressman Reyes has been honored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the National GEM Consortium, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture and in 2008 the Children Defense Fund Action Council (CDFAC) named Congressman Silvestre Reyes one of the “Best Representatives for Children.”
In 2008, the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) presented Reyes (along with former Congressman Duncan Hunter) with the “Outstanding Legislator Award,” calling him as a “great [friend] of the Army as an institution and [supporter] of soldiers and their families.” Reyes established the Congressional USO (United Service Organizations) Caucus. In 2006, Reyes was also selected as the “El Pasoan of the Year” by the El Paso, Inc. for his successful efforts in Congress to expand the role and mission of Fort Bliss. He is also the recipient of the League of United Latin American Citizens “Lucy G. Acosta Humanitarian Award,” and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce “President’s Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Since his election to Congress, Reyes has been a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and is the Democratic Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces. The Subcommittee is responsible for the funding and oversight of the Department of Defense (DOD), and plays a central role in determining funding levels for Fort Bliss. He is a senior Member of the Subcommittee on Readiness which oversees military readiness, training, logistics and maintenance, military construction, family housing, and the base closure process. Congressman Reyes also serves as the 3rd most senior Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans. The Committee is vital to the growing population of veterans in El Paso.
Congressman Reyes is Co-Chair of the House Congressional Southwest Border Caucus and Co-Chair of the House Army Caucus.
In 2001, Congressman Reyes was appointed to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and led the committee as Chairman from 2006 – 2010. As Chairman he worked to improve our nation’s intelligence capabilities, strengthen Congressional oversight of the Intelligence Community and modernize counterterrorism laws while protecting civil liberties. As Chairman, Congressman Reyes was awarded the “Distinguished Public Service Medal,” for his extraordinary service to the nation and his unwavering support for the men and women of the Intelligence Community.
Silvestre and his wife, Carolina, have been married for more than 40 years. They have three children: Monica, Rebecca and Silvestre, Jr. They are also the proud grandparents of Amelia, Mateo, Julian, and Orlando.