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.

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Valentine's Day
2:17 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

On Border, Flowers an Unlikely Form of Contraband

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.

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Crime & Justice
1:36 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Immigration Reform Activists Arrested During Protest

Cristina Parker gets arrested during a protest against the Secure Communities program.
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.

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Politics
7:51 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Van de Putte To Announce Future Political Plans on Friday

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.  

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Texas
10:55 am
Wed April 3, 2013

Report Highlights Issues With Gun Running Into Mexico

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.

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Borderlands
3:23 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

Narco Cinema Finds Growing Audience in Austin

Low-budget movies about narcos, or Mexican drug dealers, are displayed on a shelf in Video Mexico, a video rental store in Austin.
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.

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Immigration
11:50 am
Wed January 30, 2013

Obama's Immigration Plan Inspires Some, Irks Others

President Obama speaks to about 1,100 supporters at the Austin Music Hall on July 17. 2012.
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.

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Politics
12:33 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

Will Marijuana Laws in Other States Prompt Change in Texas?

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.

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Borderlands
11:29 am
Tue January 1, 2013

In Mexico, a New Plan to End Drug Violence

A Juárez municipal police officer keeps patrol while at a murder scene in the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico on May 28, 2010.
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.

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Borderlands
11:20 am
Thu December 13, 2012

Mexico's New Political Regime Sparks Activism in Texas

A young Mexican child at a YoSoy132 protest in Mexico City's Plaza de Las Tres Culturas. The sign pleads for voters to think of the child's generation when casting their ballots.
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.

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Immigration
3:02 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

George W. Bush: 'Benevolent Spirit' Can Guide Debate

Former President George W. Bush speaks at the "topping out" ceremony at the construction site of the George Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University on October 3, 2011.
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.

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Politics
5:19 pm
Tue November 27, 2012

McCaul to Be Named Chair of Homeland Security Committee

U.S. Rep Michael McCaul (R-Austin)
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.

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Mexico
10:35 am
Tue November 27, 2012

Peña Nieto's Visit Likely to Focus on Trade, Economy

President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto is meeting with President Barack Obama.
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.

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Texas
5:36 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

Court Upholds Ban on Gun Sales to Those Younger Than 21

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.

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Politics
1:20 pm
Wed September 12, 2012

Concerns Raised After Living Voters Flagged as Dead

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.

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Immigration
7:58 am
Wed August 22, 2012

Lawyers: Approved Deferred Action Applicants Can Get IDs

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.

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Politics
12:59 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Perry: 'Deferred Action' Doesn't Change State Policies

Gov. Perry on the campaign trail in Iowa last December
Ben Philpott

Gov. Rick Perry advised state agencies on Monday that despite the Obama administration’s “deferred action” policy allowing illegal immigrants a two-year reprieve from deportation and a renewable work permit, Texas' policies on persons in the country illegally remain unchanged.

Perry's rebuke of the president's plan, which he called a "slap in the face to the rule of law," comes a week after it took effect.

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Mexico
11:11 am
Wed August 15, 2012

Caravan From Mexico Seeks to Condemn U.S. Drug Policy

Mexican poet, Javier Sicilia, speaks before a crowd of supporters in Mexico City on May 8th, 2011.

Carrying the weight of his murdered son’s memory, a Mexican poet is leading a national caravan — with stops in Austin and several other Texas cities — to publicly condemn American drug policies.

Javier Sicilia and his Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, a group whose members have been affected by drug-related violence in Mexico — including several who have lost loved ones — will descend on the state Capitol on Aug. 25. The group aims to raise awareness of how it says U.S. drug policy, particularly the war on drugs, has affected Mexico.

“In order to protect the 23 million drug consumers in the United States, this nation initiated this war that has destroyed Colombia and which now in turn is destroying Mexico, Central America, and is also menacing to destroy in the medium term the United States itself,” Sicilia wrote on the movement’s website. “The burden we bear upon us contains the weight of our dead, of our missing ones, of those displaced, of our criminalized and humiliated immigrants.”

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Politics
4:17 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Ahead of Election, GOP Assails Democrats on Immigration

Dream Act supporters outside of the W hotel at President Obama's fundraiser on May 10, 2011.
Jacob Villanueva, Texas Tribune

new ad in toss-up state Nevada warns Hispanic voters that a vote for President Obama is a vote for the “deporter-in-chief” — an incumbent who fell short on his campaign promise to enact immigration reform.

"Since he took office, President Obama has broken up hundreds of thousands of families through a policy of massive deportations,” Alfonso Aguilar, the executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said in a news release. “He has been hoodwinking the American people, deploring the Arizona and Georgia immigration laws as bad laws, while deporting more immigrants than any modern president.” 

The ad, paid for by the conservative nonprofit American Principles in Action, is part of a larger strategy by Republicans to challenge the perception that Democrats are friendlier toward immigrants than they are.

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