District Work by the Numbers

I've just returned to Washington following a productive District Work Period. The last month and a half I’ve been all over South Texas meeting with farmers, ranchers, families, local leaders, and small business owners.

The parliamentary term Congress uses when not in session is "recess" – but to me it's time to really get to work. District Work Periods are some of the most meaningful times for me as your representative to hear from you. The meetings and conversations help me stay connected with our communities and relay needs back to Washington. The things I heard and learned will be extremely helpful as I head back to shape legislation and vote.

Here's an idea of what this District Work Period looked like:

Keep reading for highlights of some of the events from the past six weeks. Visit my Facebook page for more.

Supporting Our Law Enforcement in Their Work at the Southern Border

I went to McAllen with Oversight Committee Members Congressmen Chip Roy, Jim Jordan, and Andy Biggs, as well as Congressmen Ben Cline. Border Patrol gave us the lay of the land, including a boat patrol of the Rio Grande River. We saw Mexican government authorities patrolling, and Border Patrol told us this was a direct result of the Trump Administration’s efforts to work with Mexico.

Agents said that the border supplemental package Congress passed gave them resources to immediately purchase additional necessary supplies to help with the humanitarian crisis. But more needs to be done. They are underfunded and need help.

Border Patrol agents are giving it their all, but until we fix the underlying causes, the crisis will continue. We stand with them in working to end the unprecedented humanitarian crisis and secure our southern border.

Meeting with Our Allies in Israel

Israel is a committed ally and a reliable friend of the United States, one that shares our commitment to peace and liberty. In the past, the American people and Congress have always stood with Israel, and it is more important now than ever that we remain strong allies. It was my great honor to join dozens of representatives — Republican and Democrat — on a trip in August to show unity in our support for Israel and her people. 

I spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Later on in the week, we visited the site of the Iron Dome, an advanced air defense system developed in partnership with the U.S. that has successfully intercepted thousands of rockets since 2011. It's saved many Israeli lives. And so have the Israel Defense Forces, who briefed us on the tense military situation in their country and how they fight to protect their country every day. 

$5 Million Federal Grant to the University of Texas at Austin in Port Aransas

Early in August, I joined the Economic Development Administration in Port Aransas for the announcement of a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to the University of Texas at Austin to renovate the University’s Marine Science Institute Campus. The grant will be matched with $1.25 million in local investment.

This EDA grant brings important hurricane relief to our district while preserving jobs and stimulating private investment. I’m excited to see the facilities rebuilt at UT Port Aransas and the resulting economic growth in the community. I will continue working with residents and communities on hurricane recovery as long as there is work left to be done.

The project will help repair multiple buildings as well as create the Center for Coastal Ocean Science. It will also help in installing a new seawater system to support the campus in the event of future severe weather.

Hosting a Public Form on Border Security for Our Local Law Enforcement and Community

Thank you to the community members who came out to the public forum I hosted to discuss the crisis on the southern border and the issue of human trafficking. Our expert panelists included law enforcement and local landowners. It’s important for the public to hear and interact with those folks because our form of government relies on an involved and informed citizenry. Panelists included Deputy Chief Roy Boyd, Joe Braman, Border Patrol Agent in Charge Samuel B. Briggs II, Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Director Mike McDaniel, Sheriff T. Michael O’Conner, and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bradley M. Scott.

The experts laid out the problems we are facing as a country and the ones they must face each day at work. They shared about the need to reform asylum loopholes that cartels are taking advantage of in order to traffic migrants into the country. I plan to take what was shared back to Washington and keep working to fix these issues.

The panelists testified about the need to reform asylum loopholes that cartels are taking advantage of in order to traffic migrants into the country. Deputy Chief Boyd said that cartels are moving more and more into the slave trade now because of how profitable it is; while a kilo of cocaine or any drug can be sold once, human beings can be sold numerous time every day. 

Our country’s border is overwhelmed, yet our border agents do not have the resources they need to do their jobs. Although some steps have been taken – the Trump Administration recently announced that it will end the Flores Settlement Agreement – we must do more.

Our Texas Spirit Overcoming Harvey Devastation

On August 24, 2017, Texans along the coast began eyeing Tropical Storm Harvey with varying levels of concern. By the evening of August 25, the National Weather Service was advising communities throughout our region to brace themselves for tornado-force impacts as one of the costliest natural disasters in history slammed into our coast.

Storms as destructive as Harvey become a region’s defining event for years to come. But in our case, it is not Harvey’s devastation that has defined us; rather, it is the strength our region showed in both the rescue and recovery phases of Harvey’s aftermath. These past two years have been defined by our can-do Texas spirit.

Our communities showed the world in the midst of this destruction that Texans do not wait when there is work to be done. Even before the storm had passed, fellow citizens got in their boats to rescue their neighbors, then headed to Houston to pull survivors from rooftops. Those who escaped major damage spent weeks hauling tree limbs, delivering meals, and repairing the houses of their less fortunate neighbors. Families took in friends and relatives who had nowhere else to go. Churches and community groups turned their facilities into shelters. All over the region, Texans disregarded their own newly-created financial challenges to help provide for strangers who had lost everything.

The people of our communities worked tirelessly, because we were not simply rebuilding houses; we were working against the clock to get our families and neighbors back into their homes and communities, functioning again.

Read my reflections on two years of our community working together to overcome Harvey devastation here.

Working Smarter for the Texas Economy

From cattle to corn, rice to sorghum, and more, agriculture and trade work hand in hand playing a critical role to support the Texas economy.

I held a public forum on taxes, trade, and tariffs, and I want to thank everyone who came out to discuss these issues. I heard from concerned citizens, including local ranchers and farmers, about their concerns and hopes for strong international trade agreements that directly provide jobs for Texas families.

Bringing Opportunity Zones to Our Communities

Opportunity Zones have the potential to help spur growth and development in distressed regions. In Texas, there are 628 Opportunity Zones mostly in rural areas. Our district has 62 of those Zones

I hosted a discussion that brought together community partners and leaders with related federal agencies to promote dialogue and a better understanding of Opportunity Zones. Our goal is to foster the collaboration needed to help our region attract investment and make the most of the opportunities at hand.

The oil and gas industry in our region deserve support because they provide so many jobs to families in our community. Restaurants, hotels, truck drivers, and other connected industries are all impacted by taxes, trade, and tariffs. I'm hopeful that we can negotiate new trade deals with the European Union, the United Kingdom, China, and Japan. 

Hosting Mobile Office Hours to Hear From You

Mobile office hours are an opportunity for me to meet with and hear from you. My staff are also on hand to assist with case work and help you with service related to your federal government. It's a time for my office and me to assist you, answer questions, and provide guidance in navigating federal agencies. During this District Work Period, we hosted six in total and discussed many important issues.

I Want to Say Thank You

I’m continually humbled by the trust the people of our district have shown in me, and I’m thankful with what we’ve been able to accomplish this past year - but know there is more that lies ahead. I went to Congress to ensure effective representation to our district and move the ball forward on issues of real importance, both to our nation and to our region, and from job creation to port expansion to protecting American values, we’ve seen some real progress on those fronts.