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Texan Elected Hispanic Caucus Chair
by SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press Writer
November 14, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a Texas Democrat and former U.S. Border Patrol officer, was elected chairman of the congressional Hispanic Caucus on Tuesday. He said he hoped to capitalize on the wooing of the Hispanic vote during the election.
``I think it's important for us as members of the Hispanic Caucus to focus on that very issue,'' Reyes said. ``It is no longer an emerging power. It has emerged in the presidential campaign.''
Reyes, 56, was elected unanimously by the 18-member group to serve as its chairman for the 107th Congress, which convenes in January.
Reyes was re-elected to his third term this month and came to Congress after a career in the U.S. Border Patrol during which he became the agency's first Hispanic sector chief.
Outgoing caucus Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., said the unanimous election of Reyes ``indicates an appreciation for the strong leadership he's demonstrated as first vice president over the last two years, in particular in keeping our caucus a strong viable force.''
She said in the past two years the caucus has secured increased funding for universities and colleges with large Latino populations and increasing money for AIDS and health care, as well as an emphasis on small business and economic development.
Reyes said he hopes to help the caucus become a national political player and expand caucus membership by seeking, recruiting and helping to finance political races for prospective members of the caucus.
He also would like to continue building its work on fostering business, particularly Latino businesses, and economic development.
``For me being Hispanic means not only knowing and understanding and advocating and celebrating the culture we come out of, but understanding advocating for all issues that are important to this country.
Born and raised in El Paso, Reyes is a Vietnam veteran who worked as a helicopter crew chief in the Army.
He earned national attention, and criticism, for launching ``Operation Hold the Line'' while serving as the El Paso sector Border Patrol Chief. The operation stationed agents and resources at the border to stop illegal immigration. It was a shift from previous policy in which immigrants were arrested after entering the country illegally.