Julian Aguilar, Texas Tribune

Texas Tribune Reporter

Julian Aguilar covered the 81st legislative session for the Rio Grande Guardian. Previously, he reported from the border for the Laredo Morning Times. A native of El Paso, he has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Texas and a master's degree in journalism from the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism at the University of North Texas.

Tamir Kalifa/Texas Tribune

Editor's note: read Judge Andrew Hanen's ruling in three parts here, here and here.

Gov. Greg Abbott hailed a federal judge's decision Monday to halt President Obama’s executive action on immigration — a decision that gave the state of Texas an initial victory in its battle against what state leaders call federal overreach.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that the Obama administration did not "comply with the Administrative Procedure Act" when the executive action was announced in November. The policy seeks to give as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants — including some 1.46 million in Texas, a work permit and temporary relief from deportation.

Julián Aguilar/Texas Tribune

The surge of state law enforcement on Texas’ southern border will continue through August if a request made by the state’s top leaders is approved next month by budget writers. 

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

In a speech in Washington, D.C., on Friday, outgoing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst doubled down on claims that Muslim prayer rugs had been found on the Texas-Mexico border.

"Prayer rugs have recently been found on the Texas side of the border in the brush," Dewhurst said at the Values Voter Summit, according to a report on Friday by Talking Points Memo, a liberal news site.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre for Texas Tribune

EL PASO — The flowers that decorate offices, homes and restaurants along the Mexico border have been inspected as closely at border crossings as many door panels and car trunks, well-known hiding places used by drug mules to export heroin, cocaine and marijuana.

In the weeks before Valentine’s Day, flower shipments passing through Mexico and into the United States have surged. But nestled in those floral arrangements may be tiny pests and diseases that can wreak havoc with domestic plants in the United States. The job of preventing those pests from entering the country falls to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who inspect all plants that pass through the border crossings in Texas and elsewhere.

Julian Aguilar/Texas Tribune

Travis County sheriff’s deputies on Monday saw firsthand what immigration-reform activists hope will be a series of civil disobedience protests across Texas.

As part of a publicity campaign, a group of six activists blocked the exit gate at the Travis County Jail; they were arrested and will likely be charged with criminal trespass. The protesters hope the actions will prompt county officials to reconsider a controversial finger-printing initiative opponents say deports non-violent undocumented immigrants.

Texas Tribune

Sources close to state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, say she is poised to make an announcement on her political future on Friday. But the likely Democratic contender for lieutenant governor is expected to do what gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis did: reveal a future date for a formal announcement.

“I can't think of somebody who would be a better lieutenant governor for Texas," Democratic consultant Glenn Smith said. "With her legislative experience, the deep care she has for Texas and its future, her work ethic, her honesty, I mean she’d be darn near perfect.”

If Van de Putte throws her name in, she'd be the only Democrat seeking the post currently held by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is facing a Republican primary challenge from state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.  

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

As the gun control debate swirls around issues like background checks and mental health, a new study reveals that gun running into Mexico remains a large-scale problem.

Tamir Kalifa, Texas Tribune

After the arrest in 2010 of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, who the authorities said was the head of a violent Mexican drug cartel, customers at Video Mexico in Austin told Eduardo Betancourt, the owner, something he should have known: The man’s life was already the subject of a low-budget movie.

Betancourt’s video-store customers are part of a legion of aficionados of Mexican narco cinema, hastily made films that are inspired by the cartels. The films usually skip theaters, going directly to home video.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

A day after a bipartisan group of U.S. senators offered a plan to fix the country’s immigration system, President Obama offered up his own — and warned lawmakers to get serious about the issue or deal with him.

“If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away,” he told a crowd in Las Vegas.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune / Mateusz Atroszko, Texas Tribune

A veteran lawmaker hopes actions taken by state legislatures in Washington and Colorado will pave the way for Texas policymakers to consider a bill that hasn’t been heard in committee in nearly a decade.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre for Texas Tribune

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico – The tank that has stood at the entrance to this Mexican border city since 2008 was not here on Christmas Eve. Neither was the machine gun turret that pointed down this gritty town’s main street.

But the masked soldiers remained. Residents say it is a sign that little law enforcement appears to exist except for the military officers who patrol the streets.

That could change, however, under policies announced recently by Enrique Peña Nieto, Mexico’s newly inaugurated president.

Julian Aguilar, Texas Tribune

The beginning of a new political era in Mexico has given rise to a new wave of activism in Texas aiming to keep attention on human rights awareness across the border.

A group of activists from Texas and Mexico will descend on the Mexican consulate’s office in Austin on Thursday to denounce the detainment of several dozen protesters who clashed with police in Mexico City during the inauguration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Dec. 1.

Peña Nieto’s presidency marks the return to power for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico for more than 70 years before losing to the more conservative National Action Party in 2000.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

DALLAS — During his opening remarks Tuesday at a daylong conference on immigration and the economy, former President George W. Bush urged the nation’s leaders to debate immigration reform with compassion and kindness.

In a brief appearance at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Bush did not advocate for a specific solution. But his statements indicated he supports policies similar to those he championed during his presidency, when immigration reform was last debated in Congress.

Ed Schipul / Texas Tribune

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, will be named the chairman of the powerful House Committee on Homeland Security later today, Republican sources have confirmed. 

McCaul, who currently chairs the subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management and is also a member of the subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, will replace Congressman Peter King, R-New York, who announced just days ago that he was leaving the post. King has chaired the committee since 2005, the same year the U.S. House granted the committee permanent status. It was created in 2002.

image courtesy Texas Tribune

Mexico’s commitment to security and its strong symbiotic economic ties with the United States will probably be key talking points when the country's next leader visits the White House on Tuesday, according to a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto will meet with President Obama and congressional leaders to discuss the countries’ futures amid a sluggish economy and concerns over transnational violence. Peña Nieto, who won Mexico’s presidential election in July, will take the oath of office Saturday. His victory brings a return to power for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which was in charge for more than 70 years last century. The conservative National Action Party, or PAN, had been in power the last 12 years.

Antonio Garza, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 2002 to 2009 and is now counsel in the Mexico City office of White & Case, said Peña Nieto should stress Mexico’s place in the world as an emerging market.

Texas Tribune

A federal appellate court has affirmed a lower court’s decision that banning the purchase of handguns by people younger than 21 does not infringe on a person’s constitutional rights.

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which has appellate jurisdiction over districts in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, made the unanimous decision Thursday. It affects the sale of weapons by federally licensed firearms dealers.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Travis County resident Michael Moore isn’t dead. And he doesn’t know why he has to prove it to be able to vote.

Moore received one of about 82,000 letters recently mailed out by elections officials asking recipients to verify their voter status and prove they are not deceased, the result of a little-known House bill passed last year by the Legislature.

House Bill 174, sponsored by state Rep. Jim Jackson, R-Carrollton, requires the Texas secretary of state’s office to access the Social Security Administration’s death master file to check for deceased or possibly deceased registered voters and purge them from voter rolls.

Jacob Villanueva, Texas Tribune

Immigration lawyers and legal scholars say applicants who are approved for deferred action will be able to obtain state-issued ID cards and driver’s licenses under state policies, despite their lack of official legal status in the country.

Gov. Rick Perry on Monday issued a memo to state agencies reminding them that despite the federal policy that allows some illegal immigrants a two-year reprieve from deportation and a renewable work permit, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, Texas' policies on individuals in the country illegally remain unchanged.

Perry’s office said the governor had no plans to issue an executive order to amend any state policies and did not mention a specific agency he was concerned with. Instead, he used the federal government’s own words to reiterate that applicants — even if approved — hold no status or pathway to citizenship.

“In fact, the [Department of Homeland Security] secretary specifically closed her directive by explaining that [t]his memorandum confers no substantive right, immigration status or pathway to citizenship,” Perry wrote in a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott dated Aug. 16.