Silvestre Reyes: 1944—: Congressman Biography
Joined Immigration And Naturalization Service, Elected To Congress, Became Chair Of The Congressional Hispanic Caucus
Silvestre Reyes is a Mexican-American Democratic congressional representative from the 16th District of El Paso, Texas. He is a Vietnam veteran who spent more than 25 years working for the Immigration and Naturalization Services, most notably as the chief of the United States Border Patrol in El Paso. He earned a reputation as an innovative and effective leader by introducing new programs to control illegal immigration along the United States-Mexico border. As a congressman, Reyes has used his expertise on immigration issues to work on legislation related to border security, national security, and military defense. He has also been outspoken on issues affecting Hispanics, and since 2001 he has been the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Silvestre Reyes, known as "Silver" to his friends, was born on November 10, 1944, in Canutillo, Texas, a rural community five miles from El Paso. Reyes, the oldest of ten children and a third-generation Mexican American, was raised in very modest conditions on a farm. Spanish was his first language and he learned English only when he started grade school. As a young boy Reyes helped out on the family farm. One of his jobs was to keep an eye out for border patrol agents and blow a horn if he spotted them so that the undocumented workers on the farm could hide. As fate would have it, Reyes would grow up to become one of those border patrol agents. As a teenager Reyes worked during the summers as a migrant laborer in California and the lower Rio Grande Valley.
In 1966 Reyes joined the military and spent two years fighting in Vietnam. Upon his return to the United States, Reyes used his G.I. Bill benefits to attend college. He graduated with an associate's degree from El Paso Community College in 1977 and also took some classes at the University of Texas at Austin and at El Paso. During this time Reyes also worked to support his family. Reyes is married to Carolina Gayran Reyes and the couple have raised two girls, Monica and Rebecca, and one boy, Silvestre, Jr.
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