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Chairman Silvestre Reyes, Chairman
Member Photo
U.S. Congressman (Democrat)
16th District of Texas

A leader on the U.S.-Mexico border

Congressman Silvestre Reyes, now in his sixth term, became the first Hispanic to represent the 16th District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996.

The 16th District of Texas includes the City of El Paso and surrounding communities and lies within the El Paso County boundary. It is located at the westernmost tip of Texas along the Rio Grande River and across from El Paso’s sister city of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. El Paso and Ciudad Juárez comprise the largest border community in the United States.

After serving his country in Vietnam, Reyes decided to devote his life to public service. In 1969, he began his career with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in the U.S. Border Patrol. After serving as an agent, immigration inspector, and instructor at the Border Patrol Academy, he was named Assistant Regional Commissioner in Dallas, Texas for five years, where he had direct responsibility for administering a budget program exceeding $100 million for a 13-state area.

Reyes was then promoted to Sector Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol first in McAllen and subsequently in El Paso from 1984 to 1995. Reyes quickly became known as one of our government's strongest and most effective innovators in border management. In McAllen and El Paso, Reyes initiated forward-thinking programs such as “Operation Hold the Line,” the Border Patrol's Canine Program, and the Border Patrol's National Anti-Drug School Education Program. “Hold the Line” continues as part of the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (formerly the INS) strategy for the entire Southwest border and earned Reyes recognition from the White House, Congress, the Department of Justice and the INS, as well as numerous local, state, national and international organizations.

Known as "Silver" to his friends, Reyes retired in December 1995 after 26 ½ years with the Border Patrol to run for Congress.

Leadership in Congress

In December 2006, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi selected Reyes to be Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, a committee on which Reyes has served since 2001. The committee drafts the laws that govern, authorizes the funding for, and provides Congressional oversight of the 16 agencies that comprise the U.S. intelligence community, which includes components of the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, State and Energy.

Reyes arrived in Washington in 1997 with a plan to provide leadership on border issues, improve and enhance education in El Paso, protect veterans' benefits, and support our nation’s defense by enhancing El Paso’s regional military facilities of Fort Bliss, White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base. Reyes works closely with his colleagues – Democrats and Republicans alike – and has “played a leadership role in border security and immigration issues and is generally credited with spearheading El Paso’s wildly successful community-wide effort to bring 20,000 additional troops to Fort Bliss.” (El Paso Inc, 11/26/06)

Members of the House of Representatives and Senators alike consistently seek out his opinion when developing border security and immigration legislation. Reyes has played a leadership role over the past ten years in the developing the annual U.S.-Mexico Border Issues Conference in Washington, DC, as well as the annual Border Security Conference at the University of Texas-El Paso, which explores policy and technological initiatives to keep our community, our nation and our economy safe.

Other Committees:

House Armed Services Committee
          Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Ranking Member
          Subcommittee on Readiness
          Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces

House Veterans' Affairs Committee
          Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Reyes has traveled numerous times to meet with soldiers serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and around the world. He undertakes these trips to gain a first-hand perspective of the situation on the ground, improve morale and ensure that our servicemen and women have the equipment they need to keep them safe. Reyes has also traveled with the Armed Services Committee to North Korea to meet with high-ranking North Korean officials to encourage the abandonment of their nuclear weapons programs, and to Libya to inspect progress following Libyan leader Gaddafi’s pledge to rid his country of weapons of mass destruction.

Reyes is a past Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and currently serves as the Chair of the CHC’s International Relations Task Force. Reyes is Vice Chair of the Democratic Task Force on Homeland Security and serves on the Democratic Faith Working Group and the Democratic Whip Team. He is also a founding member of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus and the Congressional USO Caucus, and serves on a variety of other caucuses and coalitions. In addition, he is a member of the U.S. Mexico Interparliamentary Group, and was selected by the House Democratic Leadership to serve on the Democratic Task Force on Drugs.

Reyes was born and raised in Canutillo, Texas, just five miles outside the El Paso city limits. Reyes holds an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice from El Paso Community College and attended the University of Texas at Austin and El Paso. He is married to Carolina Gaytan Reyes, and they have three children: Monica, Rebecca and Silvestre, Jr. He is also the proud grandfather of Amelia, Mateo Silvestre, and Julian.

Selected awards presented to Congressman Reyes during his tenure in Congress:

*  El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s "Moving Forward Award" (1997)
*  Mexican American Bar Association’s "Presidential Award for Outstanding Service"
   (also known as their "Legislator of the Year Award") (1998)
*  Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities’ (HACU) "Outstanding
   Leadership Award" (2000)
*  Border Environmental Cooperation Commission’s (BECC) award honoring Congressman
   Reyes for his work addressing the environmental infrastructure needs of the border
   region. (2001)
*  National Association of Community Health Center’s "Distinguished Community Health
   Defender Award" (2002)
*  United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s (USHCC) "Chairman’s Award" (2002)
*  League of United Latin American Citizens’ (LULAC) "President’s Award" (2002)
*  Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce’s (TAMACC)
    "Government  Hispanic Business Advocate of the Year Award" (2002)
*  United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s (USHCC) "Government Business
   Advocate of the Year Award" (Congressman Reyes received two awards   regional
   and national).   (2002)
*  Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) "Border Health Hero Award,"
   which was awarded during PAHO’s centennial celebration. (2002)
*  National Parks Conservation Association’s National Congressional Award. (2002)
*  The Alliance for Public Technology’s "Susan G. Hadden Pioneer Award" for
   Congressman Reyes’ pioneering efforts in telecommunications and consumer access.
*  Air Force Sergeants Association’s L. Mendel Rivers Award of Legislative
   Excellence, which is presented annually to a member of the House or Senate who has
   worked to protect the quality of the lives of current and past military enlisted
   servicemembers. (2005)
*  The Century Council’s Congressional Award for his work launching a bilingual public
   awareness campaign designed to prevent underage drinking and discourage adults
   from providing alcohol to minors. (2005)
*  International Relief and Development, Inc’s award for his work in the relief and
   reconstruction efforts on behalf of tsunami victims in Indonesia. IRD traveled with
   Congressman Reyes to Indonesia in January 2005 to distribute supplies from El Paso
   and other communities to tsunami survivors.  (2005)
*  Rio Grande Council of Governments "Elected Official of the Year Award"  (2005)
*  American GI Forum of the United States "National Commander’s Medal" (2006)