Rep. Hinojosa announces retirement

Rep. Hinojosa announces retirement
© Getty

Rep. Rubén Hinojosa announced Friday that he'll retire from Congress at the end of this term.

The 10-term Texas Democrat follows in the footsteps of Rep. Sam FarrSamuel (Sam) Sharon FarrMedical marijuana supporters hopeful about government funding bill Marijuana advocates to give away free joints on Capitol Hill DEA decision against reclassifying marijuana ignores public opinion MORE (D), a 12-term California liberal, who announced Thursday that he'll also step down before the next Congress. 

"It is with a profound sense of gratitude and emotion that I announce my decision not to seek re-election to the U.S. Congress as your representative of the 15th congressional district of Texas," Hinojosa said in a statement.
He did not specify a reason.
Hinojosa, 75, was first elected to Congress in 1996, and has focused much of his attention on issues related to education, immigration and the confluence of the two. 
His district has been reliably Democratic; Hinojosa won with 54 percent of the vote in 2014. Still, his decision to step down is likely to trigger a scramble to replace him. Republican Ruben Villarreal, a former mayor of Rio Grande City, has already announced plans to run for the seat, according to the Texas Tribune
Hinojosa sits on two committees — Education and the Workforce and Financial Services — and he headed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) in 2013 to 2014. This year, he serves as a co-chairman of the CHC's Education Task Force.
On Friday, Hinojosa highlighted his efforts to improve healthcare, expand trade, fund transportation projects and grant new rights to young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers. 
"These students deserve a path to U.S. citizenship," he said. "After all, this is the only country they have ever known."
But his proudest work, Hinojosa said, was "in making college more affordable and accessible for students, especially low-income and under-represented students."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) heralded Hinojosa's record, saying Congress is losing "one of our most dedicated champions for advancing the education and opportunity of all Americans." 
“Each and every day, Congressman Hinojosa has strived to open new doors of opportunity to young people of every background and every community," she said Friday in a statement. 
Hinojosa's district covers a long, thin area — largely rural — that runs for 250 miles through the Rio Grande Valley from east of San Antonio south past McAllen, where it touches the Mexican border. More than 71 percent of eligible voters are Hispanic, giving it the fourth-highest Hispanic density in the nation, according to the Pew Research Center. 
The region has been ground zero for the immigration debate in recent years, as tens of thousands of illegal immigrants — many of them families and unaccompanied children — crossed into the Rio Grande Valley in the summer of 2014. The flood forced an emergency response from the border authorities, who scrambled for ways to detain and process the sheer number of migrants.
The crisis sparked a fierce partisan fight in Congress over both the cause of, and the appropriate response to, the immigrant surge, a debate that continues to swirl on in courtrooms and on Capitol Hill.
Last year, Hinojosa was among the most vocal opponents of Republicans' legislative response to the border crisis, which would have scaled back a 2008 human trafficking law in order to expedite deportations of the migrant kids. That bill passed the GOP-controlled House, but Democrats defeated it in the Senate.
Hinojosa becomes the 14th House member — and fourth Democrat — to say he'll retire at the end of this Congress.
He did not specify his plans for the future, but floated "the possibility of serving as a distinguished visiting professor at a university, as a vice chancellor of a university system or working in the private sector."
This story was updated at 1:15 p.m.