WAXAHACHIE

On the 33rd day of the longest-running shutdown in the United States government’s history, several thousand federal employees are still working without their paychecks. One Waxahachie business owner hopes to lighten the financial load a little bit by opening his Mexican restaurant to those employees — for free.

The United States government shut down Saturday, Dec. 22 of last year due to President Donald Trump and the 116th Congress failing to reach an agreement over funding for a barrier across the United States-Mexico border. Over 800,000 government employees have been furloughed as a result of the shutdown, with over 35,000 of them belonging to Texas, according to The Texas Tribune.

But Rogelio Aguilar looks to provide relief for some of those employees in Ellis County during this challenging financial time. He has opened his entire menu from his downtown Waxahachie restaurant, Two Amigos Taqueria, to furloughed government employees, and they can get anything they want off of his menu for free.

“I didn’t put any cap,” Aguilar explained while going over the menu. “They just have to prove they work for the government.”

Aguilar has owned and operated Two Amigos Taqueria for the past 17 years. Before he got into the restaurant business, however, he was an immigrant from Mexico, with a deep appreciation and admiration for the American dream.

“I came into this county when I was six years old,” he recalled. “Several years later, I got my citizenship. The rest is history.”

Aguilar recalled that he met his wife, Diana, in Dallas, and later moved to San Antonio to open Tios Mexican Restaurant.

“That was my dream,” Aguilar stated. “To have a restaurant.”

That was all before Sept. 11, 2001. Aguilar stated that military bases surrounded his restaurant, and many people moved away from the area causing a loss of business.

“We were hurt pretty bad,” he expressed.

Aguilar later moved his family to Waxahachie to start a new restaurant in a smaller community. He opened his original location for Two Amigos Taqueria in 2002 at a 1,400-square-foot location at 212 West Jefferson Street. Since then, however, he’s moved to a more prominent location in a 2,000-square-foot building located at 241 Monroe Street.

Aguilar said he’s felt very blessed for the many opportunities he’s been given in this country, and he feels sad that the nation’s leaders can’t come to an agreement for the sake of the people working for them.

That was when he and his family got together and decided to do something about it.

“The people need help,” he expressed. “They can’t live like that with no pay. If you don’t get paid, how do you eat? How do you pay the bills? They can lose their house, their cars. I can put myself in their position.”

Aguilar and his family announced to his staff on Saturday that they would be providing free meals to federal employees who came into their restaurant. Waitress Yanery Fuentes explained that furloughed employees would have to display their federal identification and state they weren’t being paid in order to be compensated for their meal.

Aguilar stated that Two Amigos had served one employee from Saturday, five on Sunday and four from Monday. He remarked that one of them cried when he told them their meal was free.

“I feel bad for them,” he expressed. “I always like to share what I have. I open my doors for the people that need me to.”

Aguilar said he was concerned for how long the shutdown could potentially go on for and how his continued donations might affect his business. But if there’s an opportunity to help those who need it, Aguilar stated that the Two Amigos family would do so.

“We want to try and do this as long as we can,” he expressed. “I don’t know how long it’s going to be. But we’re going to do the best we can.”

Two Amigos Taqueria is located at 241 Monroe Street and opens from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. throughout the week.