Progressive Democrat for State Representative
Chito Vela for State Representative
Jose “Chito” Vela is an immigration attorney, workers’ rights advocate and a former City of Austin planning commissioner. A longtime advocate for working families in Austin, Vela is the former board chair of the nonprofit Workers Defense Project and is a partner in Walker Gates Vela PLLC, a law firm dedicated to serving immigrants. Before opening his own law practice, which also includes criminal defense work, Chito served as General Counsel for a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives and prior to that was an Assistant Attorney General in the Open Records Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Chito is married to Fabiola Flores, an attorney in the Austin office of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid. A former president of the Blanton Elementary PTA, Chito has two children who attend AISD schools: Josue, age 12, and Perla, age 10. Chito and Fabiola welcomed the newest member of the family, a son, in August 2017.
Chito earned a Masters in Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a law degree from the University of Texas.
The school finance system in Texas is broken. That is no secret. As a father of two children in the Austin Independent School District and a former PTA president at Blanton Elementary, Chito Vela has seen first-hand the impact of the lack of resources in public schools. Texas needs to provide more funding to its schools so Texas children can get the education they need to be successful and build a modern economy. School finance reform is an ongoing and complex process. Chito is committed to grappling with tough issues to reach long-term solutions. Any education reform should include safeguards that ensure professional educators are allowed the flexibility and creativity they need to work with a diverse student body unencumbered by onerous standardized state requirements.
Texas has the highest number of uninsured citizens in the country. While Texas is eligible for billions in federal Medicaid funding under the Affordable Care Act that would provide health care coverage for an additional 800,000 Texans. The State of Texas, under its Republican leadership, has refused to expand health care coverage. Even as other conservative, Republican states like Louisiana, Kentucky, and Arkansas have taken advantage of this generous federal funding to expand their Medicaid programs, Texas continues to neglect the opportunity to provide health insurance for working class Texas families.
The Supreme Court ruling and guidance from the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare allows states, including Texas, to quickly and easily expand health care coverage and Chito will fight to make this happen.
Chito’s law practice includes criminal defense and he has a front row seat observing the institutional inequity in Texas’ criminal justice system. Texas incarcerates more people than any other state in the union. There are simply too many people in its county jails and state prisons that do not belong there. A disproportionate number of Texans in jail and prison are there because of mental health or drug problems. Many more are there because they cannot pay their bond or could not afford good legal representation. Texas needs to legalize and tax marijuana and reduce all other drug possession offenses to misdemeanors. And we need to make sure that the people in our prisons and jails are there because they are a threat to public safety, not because they are poor and cannot afford an attorney.
Texas is home to 4.7 million immigrants making up 17 percent of the state’s population according to the American Immigration Council. The majority are from Mexico, El Salvador and India. Today, immigrants form critical parts of our agriculture, construction, and restaurant industries. As of 2015, 1.7 million immigrants are naturalized and almost one million more are eligible for naturalization. At no time in this country’s history has the issue of immigration been treated with such draconian measures coming from the current administration at both the federal and state level. In Texas, the five major sanctuary cities have taken action to block the state’s attempt to enforce a harsh, heavy-handed federal law. In the middle of the 2017 hurricane Harvey, a federal judge took the side of the cities. While the state of Texas will most certainly appeal that decision, these cities will continue to fight. Ironically, the construction and related clean up industries tasked with re-building after the hurricane rely on immigrant workers.
As an immigration attorney, Chito Vela knows the immigrant community and will fight for fair state statutes that resist the current enforcement policies in the Texas Legislature.
Urban areas in Texas are increasingly struggling with traffic congestion and transportation funding issues. Austin is no exception. Its population has doubled every 20 years for the last five decades. However, experience has shown that adding capacity with more highway lanes is not a sustainable solution. There must be a multi-modal approach that includes bike lanes, buses, rail, and better sidewalks so that people don’t always have to drive. But investing in our transportation infrastructure will cost money. To pay for these needed investments in Austin and other cities, Chito supports raising a modest gas tax dedicated to urban transportation needs. The state has not raised the gas tax since 1991. Gas tax revenue is imperfect, it continues to decline because of improved fuel efficiency. However, it is a proven option and letting the Highway Fund languish is a disservice to Texans. In 2015, Texas A & M Transportation Institute scientists produced a study that shows raising the gas tax by 5 cents a gallon would generate $846 million for fiscal year 2015 alone.
Texas needs strong, outspoken advocates at the Capitol. Recently, the Texas Health and Human Services agency announced it would cut Planned Parenthood off from the $3.1 million a year in Medicaid funds Texas provides the nonprofit for family planning and women’s health services. Planned Parenthood uses its Medicaid funding to provide essential well-woman services – including birth control and cancer screenings – to about 11,000 low-income women. The Texas Department of State Health Services recently passed an onerous rule requiring the cremation or burial of fetal remains after a miscarriage or abortion. Texas Republicans also recently filed bills banning all abortions after 20 weeks and banning fetal tissue donation in the state. Other bills ban procedures that are already illegal under federal law or will be needlessly costly and burdensome to patients, doctors, and hospitals. Democrats will need to be unified and strong to prevent these bills from becoming law.
Families in House District 46 will be hurt by these Republican proposals, which do nothing to protect pregnant women and their babies and put a significant and undue burden on low-income and minority families. Chito will fight these attempts to hurt women’s health and reproductive freedom.
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