Filemon Vela

Representing the 34 District of Texas

Full Biography

Congressman Filemon Vela represents the 34th Congressional District of Texas, which is anchored in Cameron County in the southernmost tip of Texas, and runs nearly 300 miles north to Gonzales County. The 34th District includes Brownsville, its largest city, as well as the King Ranch, Kingsville Naval Air Station, and the historic Texas town of Goliad. Crucial to TX-34 agricultural producers, land and sea ports also link the region’s rapidly expanding energy production facilities to consumers.

Born in Harlingen, Texas, and raised in Brownsville, Congressman Vela’s roots run deep in South Texas. His ancestors purchased land from the McAllen family to establish the Laguna Seca Ranch where the first citrus orchard in Hidalgo County was planted. President Jimmy Carter appointed Congressman Vela’s father, Filemon Vela Sr., as one of the first Hispanic federal judges, where he presided over the Southern District of Texas. Congressman Vela’s mother, Blanca Sanchez Vela, served as the first, and to this day the only, female mayor of Brownsville.

Vela attended Saint Joseph Academy in Brownsville, Texas. After graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he attended the University of Texas School of Law. His interest in public service grew from his work helping individuals seek justice in state and federal courts as an attorney for more than 20 years in South Texas.


Vela has brought his expertise on border issues to the Committee on Homeland Security, where he serves as the top Democratic Member of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.  As Co-Chair of the Congressional Border Caucus, he leads efforts to reform the nation's immigration laws, and expands investments in border communities and infrastructure, including ports and roads, to strengthen trade.

Congressman Vela also sits on the Committee on Agriculture as Vice Ranking Member.  He was the only Texas Democrat appointed by the House of Representatives’ Leadership to serve as a negotiator on the Conference Committee which drafted the most recent Farm Bill (2014), a comprehensive law, which sets agriculture policy for the next five years. The Farm Bill includes resources for research of invasive species such as citrus greening, and funding for school lunches and other nutrition programs. Congressman Vela holds seats on the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture and the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry.

In Congress, Vela has been a strong advocate for immigrant rights, education programs—including Head Start and Pell Grants for college students—and community health centers. He is vehemently opposed to the construction of a border wall and is focused on bringing peace and security to our neighbors in Matamoros and Reynosa. He is also working to bring jobs and economic development to South Texas through many efforts, including transforming the Port of Brownsville into a competitive deep water port. 

Congressman Vela is married to Rose Vela, a former Justice on the Texas Court of Appeals, and they reside in Brownsville, Texas.