Bill Clinton returns to El Paso for Silvestre Reyes
Story and photos by Ricky Jimenez Carrasco
“Esta en su casa. You are in your home.” With these words from the introductory speaker, both Representative Silvestre Reyes and former President Bill Clinton were warmly welcomed to the El Paso County Coliseum with loud cheers from the roughly 4,000 people attending. Clinton came to speak to support Reyes, who has been a US Representative since 1997, and many say is facing stiff competition from Beto O’Rourke, a former El Paso city Councilman. Reyes has also just received current President Obama’s endorsement.
“We need you to vote,” pleaded Clinton to the crowd. “How can you say you are for the troops, and not vote? The decision not to vote is a vote for the other guy…You came, you clapped, you supported this man (Reyes). The least the rest of us can do is vote!” Clinton cited numbers that although Reyes has won since ’97, numbers at the voting booth have gone down in each election after about 2004, when he faced little or no competition.
After an introduction by Reyes, Bill Clinton spoke about their long history together, starting in the early 90’s when Clinton was campaigning for president in the McAllen area and Reyes was Sector Chief for the Border Patrol. They have built their relationship through the years and as they rose in office and power.
Clinton was a very popular president from 1993 to 2001, especially in El Paso, a Democrat stronghold in Texas. Reyes has become a powerful Representative in the US Congress, where he has served in the House Intelligence Committee and the Armed Services Committee. “We used to call Silver (Reyes) the ‘Save Your Breath Guy’ when I was in office because when he had something to do, you might as well save your breath because you can’t win in a fight with him. He’s going to get what he wants.” That determination has helped him do many things that Clinton listed in his speech and pointed out as Reyes’ qualifications, such as the massive expansion of Ft. Bliss’ size and importance. “Today, I landed in Fort Bliss and met with Major General (Dana) Pittard, a native of El Paso. I thought to myself, this is the way it should work: People working hard, the right way, without regard to race or color. Silver has made Fort Bliss what it is. I wouldn’t want to mess with that.”
Clinton also spoke on Silvestre Reyes’ record and the Democratic Party’s record on many issues, including universal health care: “[The bill] that has been passed is not perfect, but it is an improvement on the status quo”, the recent Supreme Court rulings on Super PACs: “We shouldn’t have people sneaking around in the dark putting money in people’s pockets, and the rest of us not know where it comes from”, and money for the Small Business Administration’s efforts to create jobs by focusing on small business loans: “If we multiplied funding for minority owned business…there would be more businesses and more jobs across El Paso and America.”
Clinton lastly wanted to thank the El Paso crowd for their support of himself and his wife, Hillary Clinton, current Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. In 2008, Hillary narrowly won Texas in the primaries. “Thank you for what you have done for me and for Hillary. Thank you for sending Silver to Congress. Do it one more time for me!”
Many in the diverse crowd also lauded Congressman Reyes’ and President Clinton’s efforts in the past and had hopes for the future. Antonio Mendez and Yvonne Rodriguez both wanted to receive a message of hope today. “We’d like to see something done against the rising gas prices and against jobs being sent overseas.” Olufemi Adeniji, an immigrant from Nigeria living in El Paso for the last 10 years, hoped that the speakers would “show love to immigrants. There are alot of immigrants in this country and we want to contribute. I want him (Reyes) to be fair.”
There were also many students from area schools in attendance. 14 year old Brenda Hamicha had many concerns about her own future in the US. “I am worried about our economy. The US is about being employed and working. We’re trying to make this the best country we can.” 16 year old Luis Alzalde from Cathedral High wanted to hear what was going to be done about his future education. “If we are going to be the ones leading the country into tomorrow, then we receive opportunities to make education affordable.”
Dora Oaxaca, a current candidate for County Commissioner, Precinct 3, summed up Clinton’s visit. “Clinton’s visit is an affirmation of the good work done by Reyes and also of the local Latinos and Latino voters. Further, having the spotlight that Clinton brings should bolster not only El Paso’s image nationally, but also strengthen our own resolve of the relevancy of our place in national politics.”