South Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar breaks with party, votes against marijuana reform, defends Title 42

The moves provide ammunition to his runoff rival, progressive Jessica Cisneros.

click to enlarge U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar speaks during an appearance in San Antonio. - SANFORD NOWLIN
Sanford Nowlin
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar speaks during an appearance in San Antonio.
Progressive Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney looking to unseat nine-term U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar from his Texas district stretching from San Antonio to Laredo has accused her rival of being a Democrat in name only.

This week, she gained two more pieces of ammunition as she looks to bolster that claim ahead of a bitter May 24 runoff for the 28th District's Democratic nomination.  

On Friday, Cuellar split with his party to vote against a landmark marijuana legalization bill that passed in the House largely along party lines, the Texas Tribune reports. Only one other Dem — U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas of New Hampshire — gave it a thumbs down.

"I've seen the consequences marijuana charges have in my community and clients I’ve worked with — families torn, deportations, loss of jobs and housing. The list goes on," Cisneros tweeted after the vote. "Meanwhile, Rep. Cuellar sees criminalization as a way to line the pockets of his private prison donors."

The vote comes days after Cuellar bucked his party to sign a letter sent by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and other Lone Star State Republicans urging the Biden Administration to keep in place a Trump-era rule that lets immigration officials quickly expel border crossers without allowing them to apply for asylum.

The Trump White House used the pandemic to justify the controversial measure, called Title 42, which has been decried by civil rights groups and many Democrats as cruel and unnecessary.

"As an immigration attorney & border resident, I saw the violence Title 42 caused," Cisneros tweeted about the letter. "Cuellar advocating for its implementation is him advocating for the cruel and inhuman treatment of people whose stories and families resemble our own. This is an issue of basic human decency."

Cisneros, who ran a near-miss campaign to unseat the congressman in 2018, got a boost this time around from news that the FBI had raided her rival's Laredo home in connection with a probe related to the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

Cuellar has denied wrongdoing and said his office is cooperating with authorities.

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