U.S. Rep Will Hurd, R-Helotes, bounded onto an Annenberg Presidential Conference Center stage Wednesday night, and the hundreds of attendees who filled the auditorium to near-capacity leapt to their feet and gave the former Texas A&M student body president a standing ovation.
“It’s a lot of pressure when you get a standing ovation at the beginning of a speech,” Hurd said, to laughs from the crowd. “It is a pleasure to be back in Aggieland — the place that taught me how to have a servant’s heart.”
Hurd, who announced in early August that he would not seek a fourth term representing the 23rd Congressional District, delivered a talk in which he called for a streamlined path to legal immigration and for “a Marshall Plan for the northern triangle,” referring to the Central American nations of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. He said it would be cost-effective for the U.S. and other nations to address crime challenges in those nations, and said that “cutting off aid to these countries is the backwards thing to do.”
“We are a country that is based on an ideal, and our actions as individuals and our actions as a government have to represent that ideal,” Hurd said.
Hurd cited the Biblical call to “love thy neighbor as thyself” as another guiding light in his approach to immigration and to international relations.
“If we did that a little bit more, guess what? We’d be able to help solve this extreme poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and we could recognize that those people are doing the same thing that we would be doing if we were in that same situation,” he said. “Imagine how bad the situation is for you to put your child on a 2,300-mile trek that you know is going to be dangerous ... but you think this is the only way that your child is going to be able to have a future. Remember that when we’re having these debates.”
Hurd’s district includes much of west and southwest Texas and runs from his hometown of San Antonio to near El Paso. He made references to A&M friends, colleagues and professors throughout his remarks.
Following his hourlong appearance, Hurd — a member of the Texas A&M class of 2000 — took questions from local media representatives. Hurd, who along with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, is one of two black Republican members of the U.S. Congress, said he is “looking to make sure that the Republican Party starts looking like the rest of America.”
“Two of the largest-growing groups of voters in this country are minorities and people under the age of 29,” Hurd said. “We need to make sure that we have people that can inspire those groups of folks. ... The party needs to start looking like America, because if it doesn’t, there won’t be a Republican Party in America.”
A portion of the event consisted of a question-and-answer session with Hurd and Raymond Robertson, a Bush School professor who serves as director of the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics and Public Policy.
Among other questions, Robertson asked Hurd for his thoughts on — and the latest information about — the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade deal, which President Donald Trump and leaders from Mexico and Canada signed in November 2018 but has yet to receive congressional approval. The USMCA would replace NAFTA.
“Getting this done is so vital to our economy,” Hurd said. “We have forgotten that international trade matters.
“I wish I could pass a bill that said that if you’ve never been to the border, you can’t talk about the border,” Hurd added, to laughter and applause from the crowd.
U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, sat in the front row of the crowd. Hurd expressed hope that the U.S. House would pass the deal by the end of this month, and Flores said that Hurd is “more optimistic” than he is.
With media members following the speech, Hurd addressed his future plans. He told the Texas Tribune recently that he was “thinking about” running for president in 2024, but said in the nearer term, he plans to focus on raising issues important to him, including bolstering the U.S. economy and immigration.
“I still have 14 months left in Congress, and that’s a long time. I have a long list of ‘honey-dos,’ and so I’m looking forward to crossing those off,” Hurd said.