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.
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.
Congressman Vela sits on the Committee on Agriculture. He was appointed by the House of Representatives’ Leadership to serve as a negotiator on the Conference Committee for the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bill, a comprehensive law which sets agriculture policy and nutrition programs, including food stamps for the next five years. For the 116th Congress, Congressman Vela was elected Chairman of the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over major commercial crops including cotton, sugar, corn, and wheat, along with crop insurance programs and commodity exchanges. He is also a member of the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit.
Vela also serves on the House Committee on Armed Services which sets funding levels and policies for national security programs. He is a member of the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces and the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces. A strong advocate for veterans and the armed forces stationed at Coastal Bend military installations and around the globe, Congressman Vela sought the committee placement to better advocate for U.S. interests in a changing security environment.
As Co-Chair of the Congressional Border Caucus, Vela is leading efforts to reform the nation's immigration laws and expand investments in border communities and infrastructure, including ports and roads to expand trade. He was previously a member of the Committee on Homeland Security serving as the top Ranking Democratic Member on the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee and is a strong advocate for immigrant rights, education programs including Head Start and Pell Grants for college students, and our community's federal health care centers. He is currently focused on bringing 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.