Texas Congressman Lets Trump Have It

     HOUSTON (CN) — A two-term Texas congressman said in an open letter Monday that he’s tired of Donald Trump’s race-baiting and told the presidential candidate to “take your border wall and shove it up your ass.”
     Filemon Bartolome Vela Jr., 53, is a Democratic congressman from Brownsville, where he grew up and practiced law for more than 20 years.
     President Jimmy Carter nominated his father Filemon Vela Sr. to the federal bench in Brownsville, where the elder Vela presided from 1980 until his death in 2004.
     Vela’s mother, Blanca Sanchez Vela, was Brownsville’s first female mayor, holding office from 1999 to 2003.
     Trump ignited his latest media firestorm by claiming that the federal judge overseeing a class action lawsuit against him could not rule fairly because he is Mexican.
     Two class actions in California accuse Trump of defrauding students at his so-called Trump University. The attorney general of New York filed a similar complaint there.
     Trump told The New York Times last week: “I have a Mexican judge. He’s of Mexican heritage. He should have recused himself, not only for that, for other things.”
     U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel was born in Indiana. The Times pointed out in its story that when Curiel was a federal prosecutor in California he had to live in hiding for a year, under government protection, because a Mexican drug cartel wanted to kill him.
     Trump launched his presidential campaign by claiming in a speech that Mexico sends its rapists and murderers to the United States. He has repeatedly called for Mexico to pay for a border wall and vowed to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
     Vela wrote in his open letter that Trump’s comments about Curiel were the last straw.
     “You have now descended to a new low in your racist attack on an American jurist, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, by calling him a ‘Mexican’ simply because he ruled against you in a case in which you are being accused of fraud, among other accusations,” Vela wrote.
     “Judge Curiel is one of 124 Americans of Hispanic descent who have served this country with honor and distinction as federal district judges. In fact, the first Hispanic American ever named to the federal bench in the United States, Judge Reynaldo G. Garza, was also from Brownsville, Texas, and was appointed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.”
     Like the Velas, the Garzas are a distinguished family in Brownsville politics. Judge Garza’s son, Ygnacio “Nacho” Garza, was a two-term Brownsville mayor and a member of the Texas Parks Commission. The federal courthouse in Brownsville is named after Judge Garza and Vela’s father.
     Vela called Trump’s anti-immigrant positions “ignorant” and pointed out that Mexico is one of the United States’ biggest trade partners in his letter.
     “While you would build more and bigger walls, I would tear the existing wall to pieces,” the letter states.
     “No doubt Mexico has its problems, but it is also our third-largest trading partner. U.S. Chamber of Commerce has documented that this trade relationship is responsible for 6 million jobs in the United States. In 2015, the U.S. imported $296 billion in goods from Mexico while exporting $235 billion in products manufactured in this country to Mexico.”
     The relationship is even more important for Texas. Mexico is the state’s largest market, with $94.5 billion in goods flowing from Texas to Mexico in 2015, 37 percent of the state’s exports, according to the International Trade Administration.
     Vela said in the letter that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its Republican leanings, realizes the importance of immigrant labor in the U.S. and that’s why it supports a “pathway to citizenship” for them.
     A September 2015 article in the Chamber’s online publication Above the Fold, headlined “No, Immigrants Aren’t a Drain on the U.S. Economy,” cited a September 2015 Kauffman Foundation report that found immigrants are nearly twice as likely to start businesses as native-born Americans.
     “Your position with respect to the millions of undocumented Mexican workers who now live in this country is hateful, dehumanizing and frankly shameful,” Vela’s letter states.
     “The vast number of these individuals work in hotels, restaurants, construction sites, and agricultural fields across the United States. If I had to guess, your own business enterprises either directly or indirectly employ more of these workers than most other businesses in our country.
     “Thousands of our businesses would come to a grinding halt if we invoked a policy that would require ‘mass deportation’ as you and many of your supporters would suggest.”
     Despite his anti-Mexican rhetoric, Trump still has some Hispanic supporters, and maintains that his commitment to bring jobs back from overseas is a draw for the Hispanic electorate.
     “I love Hispanics,” Trump said during a February presidential candidate debate in Houston. “They’re incredible people. They’re incredible workers and they know I’m going to bring jobs back from China. I’ve employed tens of thousands of Hispanics over the years.”
     Vela wrote in his letter that he does share some common ground with Trump. He agrees that immigrant felons should be deported, that the Veteran’s Administration is failing the country’s military veterans returning with post-traumatic stress disorder from combat overseas, and that the government must do more to combat cartel violence and state corruption in Mexico.
     Trump’s supporters say they relate to his candid speaking style, whether in person or on his preferred social media platform Twitter, and Vela’s letter showed he is also willing to dispense with decorum.
     “I would like to end this letter in a diplomatic fashion, but I think that you, of all people, understand why I cannot,” the congressman wrote. “I will not presume to speak on behalf of every American of Mexican descent, for every undocumented worker born in Mexico who is contributing to our country every day or, for that matter, every decent citizen in Mexico. But, I am sure that many of these individuals would agree with me when I say: ‘Mr. Trump, you’re a racist and you can take your border wall and shove it up your ass.'”
Vela issued his letter in English and Spanish.

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