Julián Aguilar discusses life at the U.S.-Mexico border

Serena Bettis

Fort Collins is 1,272 miles away from Brownsville, Texas, the southernmost point of the U.S.-Mexico border. Colorado State University’s Office of International Programs closed this distance.

Julián Aguilar brought the border to CSU with his “Straight talk from the U.S. border” presentation Thursday in the Lory Student Center Cherokee Park Ballroom. Born in El Paso, Aguilar currently reports on politics and relations at the Texas-Mexico border for The Texas Tribune.


“Bringing speakers like Mr. Aguilar provides an opportunity for our campus community to learn more about complex global issues,” Shauna DeLuca, assistant director for OIP, wrote in an email to The Collegian.

Aguilar spoke on numerous border policies, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Migration Protection Protocols and the Safe Third Country rule. Along with providing data about these policies, Aguilar gave perspective into what they look like in effect along the Texas-Mexico border.

In addition to his main presentation, Aguilar spent Thursday on campus presenting to multiple classes and engaging in smaller, round table conversations with interested students. He explained his personal and professional background, described moments of his career that have really stood out to him and gave students advice.

“I came in here to be more informed about the border situation, like what’s exactly happening with immigrants and the policies is what I was mostly interested in,” said junior Yurixhi Toro. “As I walk out, I see the type of things that need to be fixed.” 


DACA is for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. under the age of 16, typically with their families. According to the Immigration Legal Resource Center, DACA does not provide immigrants “a pathway to lawful permanent residence,” but it does provide temporary protection from deportation, the ability to apply for a social security number and work authorization.

Aguilar described DACA as “an administrative category to defer someone’s immigration status.”

Every fabric of border life is somewhat affected by this, whether we realize it or not.” -Julián Aguilar, journalist for The Texas Tribune

One common DACA debate in Texas is whether or not undocumented students at colleges should receive in-state tuition.

An infographic describing the DACA process.
This infographic describes the DACA requirements and application process. (Photo Courtesy of Immigration Law Group)

“I’ve heard both arguments, and I can see where both arguments are coming from,” Aguilar said. “On the pro side for in-state tuition in Texas is, ‘These kids were educated in the public schools. We’ve already spent taxpayer money; we might as well let them get into college.’ The other part is like, ‘Look, I’m from Oklahoma, but I want to go to UT-Austin. I’m a U.S. citizen. My parents never broke the law, but why am I paying ten thousand dollars more a semester than another person?’”

Migration Protection Protocols or “remain in Mexico”

Implemented on Jan. 25, the Migration Protection Protocols, commonly called the “remain in Mexico” policy, requires migrants seeking asylum to remain at the border in Mexico while they wait for their immigration hearings.

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s website, “Mexico will provide (immigrants) with all appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay.”


It’s one of those issues that effects people not just on one level, but it reverbs into a lot of other aspects.” -Julián Aguilar, journalist for The Texas Tribune

A chart of migration to the U.S.
A chart showing the number of migrants coming to the U.S. through the southern border in the past 10 years. (Photo Courtesy of Statistica)

From Aguilar’s perspective, the “remain in Mexico” policy is generally more harmful than beneficial. He said that Mexican citizens often feel an animosity toward the Central Americans attempting entrance to the U.S., akin to that of U.S. citizens toward immigrants from the south. This is because Mexican citizens want their government to focus on their own infrastructure issues, not supporting citizens of another country.

“This is not a sustainable way for these people to live and for the border politically to be viable on other matters when this seems to be what’s catching the attention all the time,” Aguilar said.

For even more information on what Aguilar sees every day along the border, view the video of his presentation at the 2019 Aspen Ideas Festival.

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb