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Court Rulings Deal Blow to GOP Nativism; Communities Rally Against Extreme ‘Show Me Your Papers’ Law: Updates from Texas

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Immigration continues to be front and center in Texas, where a GOP-appointed federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit led by corrupt state Attorney General Ken Paxton that sought to block a successful program that allows Americans to sponsor Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan (CHNV) migrants that meet certain criteria. Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee, found that the coalition of GOP-led states lacked standing to sue, legal organizations said.

In the year since CHNV’s inception, Americans have sponsored more than 350,000 migrants under the program. Not only is this policy helping facilitate family reunification, but research shows it has helped reduce arrivals at the southern border. But in one of the clearest indicators of the political nature of this lawsuit, GOP states didn’t challenge a similar program assisting Ukrainian refugees.

The dismissal is a major victory for the president’s humanitarian parole authority and the “everyday Americans who have sought the freedom to welcome friends, family, and global neighbors through sponsorship in the CHNV program,” said Justice Action Center (JAC) Director Karen Tumlin. 

JAC, RAICES, and the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law represented a group of seven U.S. citizens who had sponsored or were in the process of sponsoring eligible migrants and wanted to help defend the program in court. Among these intervenors was Paul Zito, a Texas businessman seeking to sponsor a Cuban pastor and his family. The pastor “was being harassed because of his faith and threatened with imprisonment,” Christianity Today reported in August.

“This program represents Abel’s best chance at reaching safety,” Zito told Christianity Today. “When my state sued to block this program, I knew I needed to defend my right, and the rights of all American citizens, to follow the calling of their faith, when we are guided by God to give shelter to our brothers and sisters fleeing oppression.” Eric Sype, another U.S. sponsor, sought to welcome a Nicaraguan man he befriended while studying abroad and who has since become like a family member. 

“I just can’t really imagine how this program is doing anything but benefiting folks, bringing people back together,” Sype told the AP last year.

“The courageous seven intervenors who joined this case to defend our fundamental values while centering directly impacted communities made all the difference in the courtroom and beyond,” Tumlin continued. “They exemplify the public’s willingness and enthusiasm to support migrants facing dangerous humanitarian crises and other challenges.” Monika Langarica, CLIP Senior Staff Attorney, said that “not only did Texas fail to prove it was harmed by this program, this decision also demonstrates the exact opposite: the CHNV parole program confers immeasurable benefits to people, families, and communities across the country.”

In another significant win out of Texas, an El Paso judge on Monday blocked Paxton’s abhorrent attempts to stop the work of a faith-based migrant shelter that has been a part of the local community for nearly five decades, ruling that the impeached state attorney general “acted without regard to due process and fair play” in seeking to shut down Annunciation House, El Paso Matters reports.

“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,” said 205th District Judge Francisco Dominguez. “There is a real and credible concern that the attempt to prevent Annunciation House from conducting business in Texas was predetermined.”

Last month, Paxton launched a shocking, baseless accusation claiming that Annunciation House was facilitating human smuggling. This is a vicious lie: the volunteer-based group assists newly arrived migrants who’ve already been processed and released from federal immigration custody. But this attack didn’t appear overnight; Annunciation House and other migrant aid organizations have been under scrutiny by Texas for several years now. Unable to justify his attacks, Paxton has instead used a paperwork dispute as an excuse to shut down the group’s mission. “Predetermined,” indeed.

Paxton’s attack has drawn fierce backlash from within Texas and across the nation, including from Catholic bishops in the state. In his Feb. 22 statement, El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz said volunteers “will not be intimidated in our work to serve Jesus Christ in our sisters and brothers fleeing danger and seeking to keep their families together.” More than 430 faith groups and leaders have also expressed solidarity with Annunciation House. During a press conference last month, Ruben Garcia, the founder and director of Annunciation House, further warned that the organization would not be the only entity targeted by Texas. He reiterated this following Judge Dominguez’s ruling on Monday.

“It kind of sends a shiver through all incorporated entities in the state of Texas because people are going to ask, does this mean that the attorney general feels that they have the authority to arrive at any institution, any business, any entity, and just walk up and say, we are submitting a request to examine,” Garcia told El Paso Matters. “And I think that’s a really fundamental question about whether that’s a way to function.”

Texas communities are also waiting to hear about the future status of S.B. 4, the extreme “show me your papers” law blocked by a court late last month. While a sound-mind judge temporarily halted the law, that hold was lifted by the notoriously conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Following an appeal from the Biden administration, the Supreme Court again temporarily halted the law. S.B. 4’s implementation date, which was set for March 5, is now delayed until at least March 13 while the high court considers the law. Further court action could be expected at any moment.

Ahead of the March 13 date, 1,500 Texans gathered outside the state capitol building in Austin on Saturday to protest the legislation, which, if implemented, would empower every law enforcement officer to question the citizenship of any Texas resident and detain them. 

“Local authorities, county authorities are going to be able to now to stop you because of the color of your skin,” Jessie F. Fuentes of the Eagle Pass Border Coalition told CBS News. “It upsets me that legislators in this building behind me knew what they were doing – it’s a violation of the constitution.” For Anna Nguyen, the legislation is personal. She told CBS Austin that she came to the United States as a war refugee from Vietnam, “so it’s important to me that everybody is welcomed to this country and is given the same opportunity.”


We noted that Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott should be glad the courts blocked S.B. 4. States that have passed anti-immigrant legislation have learned the hard way that xenophobic legislation is both hateful and costly. Yet, during a town hall last summer, a Florida Republican who helped pass the state’s anti-immigrant S.B. 1718 expressed shock over workers fleeing the state. Reporting has since noted that it could take years for Florida to recover from its ongoing labor shortage. Major industries that depend on the work of migrant workers – such as agriculture, hospitality, elder care, nursing, and construction – were already struggling to fill vacant positions.

In Texas, Fuentes told CBS News that “a lot of conversations are happening at the kitchen tables right now, right, like, ‘do we need to leave Texas?’ ‘Is it safe for us to stay?’ ‘Do we have our kid’s passports?’ ‘What if I get picked up on my way to work?’ And, ‘who’s going to pick up my kids from school?’ Those are the tough conversations that immigrant families are having.”