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‘Outrageous and Intolerable’: Judge Blocks Ken Paxton’s Attempt to Shut Down Faith-Based Migrant Aid Organization, Says Office Harassed Workers and Clients

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A sound-minded judge has blocked corrupt Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s despicable attempt to shut down a faith-based migrant aid organization that has served the local El Paso community for decades, issuing a pair of decisions finding that his office violated the organization’s religious freedoms and used a records request as an excuse to go after humanitarian workers and vulnerable migrants.

“The record before this Court makes clear that the Texas Attorney General’s use of the request to examine documents from Annunciation House was a pretext to justify its harassment of Annunciation House employees and the persons seeking refuge,” 205th District Judge Francisco Dominguez wrote. “In fact, the record before the Court now establishes that the Attorney General was seeking evidence of alleged criminal activity all along. This is outrageous and intolerable.”

We agree. Paxton launched his gross political campaign against Annunciation House by accusing the faith-based charity – without a single shred of evidence – of helping “facilitate astonishing horrors including human smuggling.” Back here in reality, Annunciation House and its volunteers have worked for years to provide nutrition, water, temporary shelter, and other vital services to migrants who have already been processed and released by federal immigration officials. 

Annunciation House actually communicates regularly with federal immigration officials to coordinate some of these post-release services. “Over these 10 years, I’ve witnessed Border Patrol and ICE agents not only admire the structure of our operation, but even bring us donations,” one volunteer said. It seems that if federal agencies were somehow implicated in shocking crimes of this magnitude, Paxton would’ve said so. But he didn’t, because this wasn’t an accusation based on facts, but instead on his anti-immigrant rancor.

This is not the first time Paxton’s actions have been called out in Dominguez’s courtroom, either. In March, the judge “stated the Texas Attorney General’s Office was acting ‘unprofessional’ and had ‘ulterior political motives’ in seeking the documents from the Annunciation House,” El Paso Times 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,” Judge Dominguez said at the time. “There is a real and credible concern that the attempt to prevent Annunciation House from conducting business in Texas was predetermined.”

Paxton’s attacks on Annunciation House have drawn backlash across Texas and the nation, and even reverberated to the uppermost echelons of the Catholic Church. During a 60 Minutes interview in May, Pope Francis excoriated Paxton’s effort to shut down the organization, calling it “sheer madness.” During his historic visit to the United States in 2016, Pope Francis urged America’s immigrants to “not be discouraged” by hardships and to “never be ashamed” of their traditions. “Please, you should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land,” he said. He also slammed efforts to build a racist border wall – which remains a top priority for Paxton, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and convicted felon Donald Trump – calling it “not Christian.”

Following the rulings from Judge Dominguez, Annunciation House founder Ruben Garcia said he celebrated the decisions and hoped it would bring Paxton’s attacks “to an end. That’s my hope, that would be my prayer.” But he said he’s also “realistic enough to know it probably won’t end here and for that I’m very sorry.” Garcia’s fear proved prescient. Paxton has his sights set on at least four other groups that help migrants along the borderlands, including Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley:

Both national Catholic Charities and local Catholic Charities have already been deluged by hateful vitriol after being targeted by a number of right-wing figures, America Magazine reported in 2022. 

“We certainly have received hateful, hateful calls from people who say they are Catholics,” said Sister Donna Markham, CEO of Catholic Charities USA, “and speaking to us in language that I would never repeat and threatening our agencies. It’s a very sad situation.” Paxton owns this – as do all the state Republicans who disgracefully protected him from impeachment and removal from office, despite the dearth of evidence of his corruption and alleged criminal wrongdoing.

RELATED: Catholic Bishops, Local Leaders, More Than 150 Organizations Stand In Solidarity With Annunciation House Following Attack from Corrupt Texas Attorney General

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