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HomeGeneralJudge Rules Against Texas AG in Fight Against Nonprofit Helping Migrants

Judge Rules Against Texas AG in Fight Against Nonprofit Helping Migrants

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Annunciation House
Source: WFAA/YouTube

In a decision issued on Monday, a Texas judge ruled in favor of a migrant shelter located on the U.S.-Mexico border. The judge granted the shelter protection against Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton’s efforts to obtain its records. Paxton had sought to close down the facility, alleging that it encourages migrants to enter the country unlawfully.

His office had claimed that the non-profit organization was engaged in “alien harboring, human smuggling, and operating a stash house.” But Judge Francisco X. Dominguez of El Paso issued the order restraining the shelter from complying with the request. Dominguez had questioned Paxton’s true intention for filing his administrative subpoena. 

“The Attorney General’s efforts to run roughshod over Annunciation House, without regard to due process or fair play, call into question the true motivation for the Attorney General’s attempt to prevent Annunciation House from providing the humanitarian and social services that it provides,” Dominguez wrote in the court ruling.

“There is a real and credible concern that the attempt to prevent Annunciation House from conducting business in Texas was predetermined,” Dominguez said. State officials visited Annunciation House in early February, demanding immediate access to review records. 

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ALSO READ: Texas AG Sues Catholic Immigration Nonprofit, Accuses It of Human Smuggling

The records included medical and immigration documents of migrants who had received services at the shelter since 2022. The non-profit organization was demanded to hand over all its internal documents in one day.

Officials from Annunciation House which oversees a network of shelters, said they were willing to comply. However, they emphasized their need for time to determine what they could legally share without infringing upon the constitutional rights of their clients. But Paxton’s office deemed it as non-compliant.

According to court documents, Paxton’s office served an administrative subpoena on Annunciation House on February 7, requesting to examine records. However, Dominguez’s ruling stated that the subpoena “did not cite which Texas laws the Attorney General believed were being violated.”

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POLL—Should the U.S. Government Create a Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants?

“The Attorney General demanded production by February 8, 2024, or else Annunciation House would be deemed to be non-compliant,” the court document said. An attorney representing Annunciation House replied on February 7, saying that the organization would provide the requested documents within 30 days.

Also, Annunciation House obtained a temporary restraining order against the state’s demand for immediate disclosure of the organization’s records. The filing from the attorney general’s office alleged that Annunciation House was violating many provisions of law. 

“Annunciation House has publicly claimed that it ‘hous(es) close to 300 migrants’ at a given time, ‘many of whom are stuck in limbo because they’ve avoided law enforcement,” the court filing read.

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On the other hand, the Annunciation House said that Paxton’s “illegal, immoral and anti-faith position” to shut down the organization was baseless. “The AG has now made explicit that its real goal is not records but to shut down the organization. It has stated that it considers it a crime for a Catholic organization to provide shelter to refugees,” the nonprofit said.

ALSO READ: House Republicans Pass Bill To Arrest Illegal Migrants Accused of Crimes After Death of Georgia Student

Now, even though the shelter can resume normal operations, the executive director, Ruben Garcia, said that the lawsuit has had a detrimental impact on them. “We depend a lot of volunteers and we’ve had volunteers leave because they’ve been concerned that they could somehow get caught up in this legal process,” Garcia said.

“I’m sure it’s going to make other people who might consider volunteering think twice about wanting to volunteer.” The judge has ruled that both parties must litigate within Texas Rules of Civil Procedure for fair play and an orderly process.

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