A Catholic migrant shelter in El Paso has responded to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton over “baseless” allegations that the charity runs a human trafficking ring.
Annunciation House, a well-known and respected immigrant charity in West Texas, has been charged with “harboring aliens, human trafficking, and operating a stash house” by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Earlier this week, the Lone Star State’s top prosecutor said he would shut down the nonprofit by suspending its business license for refusing to hand over documents he wanted.
Flanked by El Paso’s top religious and elected leaders, Annunciation House director Ruben Garcia called Paxton’s actions an attack on Catholic groups doing the work of the Gospel.
‘Personally, I am baffled by the use of words like “smuggling.” Calling our houses of hospitality “hideaways.” Isn’t it shameful to refer to the houses of God and houses of hospitality as “hiding places,” Garcia said?
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton demanded documents from Annunciation House, an immigrant charity in El Paso, Texas, on February 7.
Migrant children from different Latin American countries rest on cots inside one of several shelters run by Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, photographed Feb. 16, leaving a Houston court hearing for a felony security fraud case in which he is a defendant.
Annunciation House has welcomed immigrants for 46 years, providing them with a place to stay, meals and a place to wash when they enter the U.S. in El Paso, after they have been legally screened, screened and released by federal immigration authorities. in the country. .
Most of the migrants who pass through El Paso do not stay in the border city, but rather the vast majority travel to other places in the United States.
Annunciation House volunteers also help connect immigrants with friends and family who can buy a ticket out of town.
On Feb. 7, the Republican state attorney sent lawyers to Annunciation House, giving the organization one day to turn over the records “without explanation,” the religious group said.
“The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) reviewed important public records information that strongly suggests that Annunciation House is involved in legal violations such as facilitating illegal entry into the United States, harboring aliens, human smuggling, and operating a safe house.” , Paxton’s office alleged. on his own Tuesday press release.
In legal documents, Paxton pointed to news coverage of Annunciation House, where the organization admitted to housing “migrants who avoided Border Patrol” when they illegally crossed the southern border.
Migrant families are dropped off at an Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, after being processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in December 2022.
The director of the House of the Annunciation, Rubén García, described Ken Paxton’s actions as “immoral” and “illegal”
Migrant children from different Latin American countries wait to receive food at a new center opened by Annunciation House to help the large flow of migrants released by the United States Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in El Paso, Texas, on April 24, 2019.
Asylum-seeking migrants are dropped off at Annunciation House in El Paso in December 2022 after being screened by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
When Annunciation House’s attorney told Paxton’s office it would respond within 30 days, the attorney general’s office told the charity they would close.
The nonprofit sued to block Paxton’s records request and what his attorney called “government overreach.”
“Attorney General Paxton claims he can walk into any business at any time and demand any document he wants, including customer records, medical records and legal records,” attorney Jerry Wasevich said Friday.
“He claims that if the company does not perform to his satisfaction, he can permanently close it in Texas.”
The actions of Paxton, a Republican, were largely considered political by Democratic leaders in Texas’ sixth-largest city.
“If you mess with Ruben, you mess with Annunciation House, you’re messing with us,” County Judge Ricardo Samaniego defiantly declared Friday.
“We’re going to show that that’s the line in the sand.”
El Paso has fought political and legal battles against the state’s Republican leadership before, including during the pandemic over masks and business closures.
Most recently, El Paso County sued the state over SB4, a Texas law that would allow state and local police to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant.
However, the courts have not yet made a final decision and the law is scheduled to come into force on March 4.
Local leaders warned that Paxton’s intention was to shut down any religious groups that were helping immigrants, something many far-right politicians disapprove of.
“What we are seeing is part of a broader and terrifying attack on welcoming communities,” explained local congresswoman Verónica Escobar.
‘I can tell you that in the United States Congress, far-right members of the Republican Party have done everything they can to eliminate local governments and organizations that provide humanitarian care to immigrants. I have heard in the House Judiciary Committee that Republican colleagues are denouncing and attacking Catholic Charities and the Catholic Church.’
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, front left, speaks with his defense attorney Anthony Osso, Jr., during a hearing in his securities fraud case, Friday, Feb. 16, in Texas County Criminal Court. Harris in Houston. A judge on Friday rejected Paxton’s attempts to dismiss felony securities fraud charges that have dogged the Republican for nearly a decade.
Ken Paxton mega-donor Nate Paul was indicted by the feds last year. The Texas businessman at the center of an FBI investigation that he and Paxton entered into an illegal quid pro quo, with Paxton helping Paul with legal problems in exchange for Paul hiring Paxton’s mistress.
Ken Paxton’s affair with his former lover, Laura Olson, is central to accusations that Ken Paxton broke the law.
Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years, with accusations of corruption and abuse of power. He also faces state charges in unrelated criminal cases.
In May, the Republican was impeached by the Texas House of Representatives, with allegations of an illegal quid pro quo: that Paxton helped one of his wealthy donors, Nate Paul, in exchange for that same donor giving the company a job. Paxton’s lover, Laura Olson.
Paxton survived removal from office but faces multiple criminal investigations in the Lone Star State.
Paxton’s office did not respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.