Fighter (n.) One who works tirelessly for a goal or objective.
Born in McAllen, Texas in Hidalgo County, Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa was the eldest of eight children born to Juan de Dios and Esperanza Hinojosa. He attended Mission ISD schools as a child and worked as a farm worker during his teen years. He led the Mission Eagles football team as their quarterback, and after graduating, Hinojosa volunteered to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.
In Vietnam, Hinojosa served as a squad leader from 1966 to 1968 before returning home to continue his education. Hinojosa graduated with honors from the University of Texas-Pan American with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He completed his legal studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
After returning to South Texas, Hinojosa served as staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Nueces County and later as an Assistant Attorney General for the Texas Attorney General’s Office. In 1980, Hinojosa opened his private legal practice in McAllen, where he continues to represent clients in both civil and criminal matters.
Hinojosa was first elected to office in 1981, serving in the Texas House until 1990, and again from 1997 to 2002. During his tenure in the Texas House, Hinojosa passed landmark legislation including the establishment of the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) which promotes physician training on the Texas/Mexico Border. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, Senator Hinojosa sponsored the Texas Fair Defense Act, reforming procedures for providing court-appointed defense counsel to indigent defendants, and he sponsored DNA legislation that has resulted in freeing many wrongly convicted citizens.
Since his election to the Texas Senate in 2002, Hinojosa has secured more than $84.7 million for new construction at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and at the University of Texas-Pan American. Senator Hinojosa’s efforts have brought millions in funding to support the growth of Senate District 20, composed of Brooks, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, and Nueces Counties.
Senator Hinojosa is currently the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and he holds seats on the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Criminal Justice, Jurisprudence and Natural Resources. The Senator is in his second term on the Sunset Advisory Commission, a bipartisan panel that reviews the effectiveness of state agencies and decides whether to continue or abolish unnecessary state entities. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst appointed State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa to a joint interim committee charged with monitoring the implementation of new human trafficking legislation, and also to a second interim committee looking for ways to expand Texas’ cruise ship business.
Senator Hinojosa authored the Texas Fair Defense Act and other reforms to establish court-appointed counsel for indigent defendants, prohibit capital punishment for defendants with mental illness, and streamline the court system to provide swifter justice. He also sponsored SB 3, which established procedures for DNA testing, use and preservation.
He has been a key player in protecting Latino rights in the Texas Legislature. In the 2011 session, he blocked the so-called “Sanctuary Cities” legislation that would have allowed law officers throughout the state to profile and detain people using racial profiling.
In 2005, Senator Hinojosa authored SB 1125 to eliminate the state’s few remaining drug task force operations and put them under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Safety. In the wake of the Tulia drug task force scandal, Senator Hinojosa worked to improve public policy by requiring that such operations submit to state oversight, and failure to do so would result in an inability to receive state-administered federal grant money. This change in public policy brought greater transparency and oversight to these operations.
Senator Hinojosa authored legislation to reform the state’s troubled Texas Youth Commission after investigations by the Texas Rangers found instances of sexual and physical abuse of youth in state facilities. His bill made a number of fundamental changes, including ending the practice of housing children with older teenagers, and creating a Parent’s Bill of Rights to guarantee swift and accurate access to information about caseworkers’ duties and the agency’s grievance policies. Senator Hinojosa was appointed to the TYC Legislative Oversight Committee to continue working on reform of the troubled agency.
Senator Hinojosa has received numerous awards for his public service during his more than 20 years as an elected representative of South Texas. The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce honored Senator Hinojosa with its Golden Eagle Award in 2012. He was named Border Texan of the Year by BorderFest and the City of Hidalgo in 2011. The Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce in 2011 honored him with a Legislative Champion Award.
He has twice been named a “Top 10 Legislator” by Texas Monthly magazine. Capitol Inside news has twice named Senator Hinojosa to its “Top-Ten” list of legislators. The National Organization of Women named him their “Legislator of the Year” and he received a special recognition from the NAACP for his work to improve the Texas Youth Commission and other criminal justice reforms. He earned a “Texas Medicine’s Best Legislator” award from the Texas Medical Association for his work to restore Children’s Health Insurance Program funding and improve childhood immunization rates.
He received the prestigious John Henry Faulk Award, presented by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Texas Access to Justice Foundation honored him in 2010 with its Legislative Hero Award. He was a co-recipient in 2011 of the James Madison Award given by the Freedom of Information Foundation for lawmakers who demonstrate outstanding commitment and service in upholding the principles of the First Amendment. He received a Star of Texas public service award from Common Cause of Texas.
Senator Hinojosa lives and works in McAllen when he is not serving South Texas in Austin. He enjoys spending time with his three children and two grandchildren.