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Silvestre Reyes

Silvestre Reyes
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 16th district
In office
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Ron Coleman
Succeeded by Beto O'Rourke
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee
In office
January 4, 2007 – January 3, 2011
Preceded by Peter Hoekstra
Succeeded by Mike Rogers
Personal details
Born (1944-11-10) November 10, 1944
Canutillo, Texas
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Carolina Reyes
Residence El Paso, Texas
Education El Paso Community College, Associate's Degree
Occupation Border Patrol Sector Chief
Religion Roman Catholic
Awards Air Medal[1]
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1966-1968[1]
Rank Sergeant[1]
Battles/wars Vietnam War[1]

Silvestre "Silver" Reyes[2] (born November 10, 1944) is the former U.S. Representative for Texas's 16th congressional district, serving from 1997 to 2013. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He was Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence between 2007 and 2011. In the Democratic Primary election on May 29, 2012, Reyes lost by a margin wide enough to avert a runoff election[3] to former El Paso city councilman Beto O'Rourke.


  • Early life, education and career 1
  • U.S. House of Representatives 2
    • Committee assignments 2.1
    • Caucus Memberships 2.2
    • Awards 2.3
  • Political campaigns 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life, education and career

Reyes was born in Canutillo, an unincorporated suburban community west of El Paso, and is the oldest 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. In 1967, Reyes served as a helicopter crew chief in the Vietnam War. In 1968, Reyes suffered complete hearing loss to his right ear when mortar landed near his foxhole during combat.

In 1969, Reyes joined the U.S. Border Patrol where he served for over 26 years. From 1984 - 1995 Reyes served as the Sector Chief for the McAllen and El Paso Sectors of the Border Patrol. In 1993, while serving as the Chief Patrol Agent of the El Paso Border Patrol Sector, Reyes led the Border Patrol to strategically position agents on the border to intercept undocumented immigrants in a strategy later termed "Operation Hold the Line". This operation was the predecessor to a similar operation dubbed "Operation Gatekeeper" in Southern California. Such tactics were not without controversy, as placing Border Patrol Agents in high visibility positions placed them at tremendous risk from rock and firearms assaults from the Mexican side of the border. Immigrant-rights groups also protested the strategy, as it was effective in deterring undocumented aliens from crossing in protected urban areas such as El Paso and San Diego, California and as such "forced" them to cross through desolate parts of the Southern United States, such as the deserts of the Imperial Valley in California and the Sonora desert in Arizona. Reyes gained enormous popularity in the 16th Congressional District due to the Operation's success in reducing undocumented immigration.

U.S. House of Representatives

As a senior member of both the Armed Services and (formerly) Select Intelligence Committees, Reyes is a key member of Congress on Defense and military issues. He is credited with the recent success of Fort Bliss and White Sands military bases in the most recent Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decisions by the Department of Defense. On December 1, 2006, Reyes was tapped by Pelosi, the prospective Speaker of the House, to be the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.[4]

Reyes was a key player in the 109th Congress because of his Immigration and Border Patrol experience. He was instrumental in leading the opposition to the House immigration proposal proposed by James Sensenbrenner, H.R. 4437. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi selected Reyes to present and lead the debate on a Democratic substitute to replace the Sensenbrenner legislation, which was voted down on a party line vote.

Reyes has served as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. In 2002, he considered running for the United States Senate, but decided against such a move. In 2005 he missed 94 votes in the House, the ninth most of any member.

On March 27, 2009, Reyes was tapped by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to lead a high-level Congressional Delegation to meet with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico. Reyes led the delegation and was accompanied by Ike Skelton, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The three high-ranking Chairman discussed Mexico's efforts to combat drug-related violence and assessed U.S. efforts to assist the Mexican government.

In his role as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Reyes was a deciding factor in whether legislation on the floor of the House extending provisions of the FISA would include retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies which participated in the NSA's warrantless wiretap program. Although he initially supported immunity for telecommunications companies, saying that immunity was necessary and the companies hadn't done anything illegal,[5] eventually after being contacted by pressure groups, the version of the legislation he introduced did not contain provisions for telecom immunity, despite Republican threats to torpedo any bill that did not contain telecom immunity.[6]

In a December 2006 interview with El Paso Times In the same interview, Reyes said he favored sending more troops to

[7], "we don't have the capability to escalate even to this minimal level."[9]

Committee assignments

Caucus Memberships

  • Congressional Arts Caucus
  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus (Chair)


ASME honored Reyes with the ASME President's Award on April 3, 2008. ASME President Sam Zamrik presented the award in recognition of Reyes' "outstanding contributions in promoting diversity in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields" as the co-founder of the Congressional Diversity and Innovation Caucus.[10]

On October 29, 2012 the Canutillo Independent School District Board of Trustees voted unanamously to name a school after Reyes and his wife Carolina. The school which is to be open by the 2014-15 school year will serve students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth.[11] ±

Political campaigns

In 1995, Reyes retired from the U.S. Border Patrol and announced his candidacy for the U.S. Congress against Ron Coleman in the Democratic primary, but Coleman later retired. Reyes finished first in a five-way Democratic primary—the real contest in this heavily Democratic district.[12] He then defeated Jose Luis Sanchez in the runoff by just over 1,000 votes.[13] He won the general election with little trouble, taking 70 percent of the vote.[14] Although the 16th has long since become a Latino-majority district, Reyes was the first Latino to represent the district.

He was reelected seven times with no substantive Republican opposition. He only faced a Libertarian challenger in 1998[15] and 2008,[16] and was completely unopposed in 2000.

In 2012, Reyes was defeated by primary challenger Beto O'Rourke, taking 44.4 percent of the vote—just a few hundred votes short of forcing a runoff.[17] During this election Reyes was endorsed by both President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.


  1. ^ a b c d "Once a Soldier... Always a Soldier" (PDF). Legislative Agenda.  
  2. ^ Congressional Record
  3. ^ In upset, El Paso US Rep. Reyes loses tight race - Houston Chronicle
  4. ^ 
  5. ^ Reyes: Deal Soon on Eavesdropping Law
  6. ^ House Democrats unveil new surveillance bill
  7. ^ "New House Intelligence Committee Chair Short on Intelligence". Fox News. December 13, 2006. 
  8. ^ Jeff Stein: Democrats’ New Intelligence Chairman Needs a Crash Course on al Qaeda (Congressional Quarterly, 8 December 2006)
  9. ^ El Paso Times - El Pasoans split on troop surge
  10. ^ ASME (May 2008). "NEWS Online". 
  11. ^ "CISD School Named for Congressman, wife" (PDF). CISD. 
  12. ^ 1996 Democratic primary, TX-16
  13. ^ Our Campaigns - TX District 16 - D Runoff Race - April 09, 1996
  14. ^ Our Campaigns - TX District 16 Race - November 05, 1996
  15. ^ 1998 general election, TX-16
  16. ^ El Paso County - TX - District 16 Race - November 04, 2008
  17. ^ Sledge, Matt (May 29, 2012). "Pot Supporter Wins Texas Congress Race". Huffington Post. 

External links

  • U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes official U.S. House site
  • Silvestre Reyes for U.S. Congress official campaign site
  • Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
  • Profile at SourceWatch
  • U.S. Congressman's Family Member Kidnapped in Juarez, June 2008
  • Reyes the Rainmaker: Electronics and earmarks on the border, Tom Barry, Newspaper Tree, September 17, 2009
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ronald D. Coleman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 16th congressional district

Succeeded by
Beto O'Rourke
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Hoekstra
Chairman of House Intelligence Committee
Succeeded by
Mike Rogers
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