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Texas AG Ken Paxton Files Suit Catholic Migrant Aid Charity for ‘Human Smuggling’!


CNS NewsRuben Garcia’s phone rings with Border Patrol texts daily. Each text informs Garcia of how many migrants will be lawfully released and need food, water, or shelter. The executive director of the nonprofit Annunciation House, a Catholic evangelist who brought Mother Teresa to Texas, has focused on meeting those needs for over 40 years through a network of faith-based shelters. He calls it “hospitality.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton calls it “human smuggling.” Paxton claims the Annunciation House “appears to be engaged in the business of human smuggling,” calls its shelter network “an illegal stash house,” and threatens to revoke its Texas license in a new lawsuit. The lawsuit against a Catholic migrant aid organization is a major expansion of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s immigration and border crackdown, experts say.

If the state wins, churches, hospitals, and other humanitarian organizations may be affected. “We are now witnessing an escalating campaign of intimidation, fear, and dehumanization in Texas,” said El Paso Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz. He said the city’s “place of welcome and dignity” is at risk. A network of religious migrant shelters

Annunciation House isn’t a place. Like-minded people are driven by faith to help the most vulnerable regardless of circumstance. Garcia’s faith-based shelters span Dallas to Denver and Albuquerque to southern New Mexico, depending on the year. College students and seniors volunteer at the shelters.

Two El Paso shelters treat migrants who have been severely injured, including those who fell from the 30-foot border fence. When possible, churches welcome migrants, and Garcia tries to find a home for every migrant processed and lawfully released by Border Patrol in El Paso, a task that has grown harder as the number of migrants crossing the border has increased.

His work has become more political as Texas’ elected leaders and national politics move right on immigration. Paxton said this week that migrant aid organizations are “responsible for worsening illegal immigration.” “The chaos at the southern border has created an environment where NGOs, funded by taxpayer money from the Biden Administration, facilitate astonishing horrors including human smuggling,” he said.

Former Border Patrol agent-in-charge Pete Hermansen, who directed national special operations, said he saw “both sides of it” during his 21-year career. “I saw organizations that crossed the line and organizations that were there to help people,” said he. “Regardless of how provocative Texas is getting, Texas is sharing with the nation the pain of this immigration problem so there is visibility to it.”

Garcia has received Border Patrol calls and texts daily during the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations as the make-up of migrants arriving at the border has changed from individuals sneaking in to find work to families with children seeking asylum. After releasing asylum-seekers and other migrants, agents prioritize keeping them off the street.

Texas AG Ken Paxton Files Suit Catholic Migrant Aid Charity for 'Human Smuggling'!

In El Paso, that means texting Garcia to send migrants to Annunciation House instead of a street corner. “Faith-based organizations have been picking up the pieces of a broken system for decades,” said Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute, another El Paso Catholic migrant aid group.

The suit “is designed for political effect and also to have a chilling effect.” Jerry Wesevich, Annunciation House attorney, called Paxton’s lawsuit “a gimmick lawsuit to try to shut down” the nonprofit. “You have a bunch of church ladies trying to help people,” Wesevich said. Annunciation House is not an immigration agency. It does not determine legal or illegal immigration.”

Texas fights border crime in court. Operation Lone Star and the attorney general’s office have sought to curb border migration under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Abbott has sent hundreds of Texas National Guard troops to the Mexican border, installed razor wire along the Rio Grande, and bused over 100,000 migrants to Democrat-led cities for $10 billion since 2021.

He recently announced plans to build a 2,300-troop borderline military facility. Paxton challenged the governor’s border crackdown in court. He sued the Biden administration to keep building a 2,000-mile border barrier and defended Abbott’s Rio Grande buoy barrier after the Department of Justice sued. The Texas Tribune reports that he has filed over 20 lawsuits against the Biden administration, many of which target immigration policies.

Texas AG Ken Paxton Files Suit Catholic Migrant Aid Charity for 'Human Smuggling'!

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According to court documents, Paxton’s office emailed Annunciation House on Feb. 7 to provide “immediate access” to its records, including “all logs” identifying its migrants. The Annunciation House sued in Texas 205th District Court to determine which records must be disclosed by law.

In its Feb. 8 lawsuit, the nonprofit said the AG threatened criminal sanctions and forfeiture of (Annunciation House’s) right to do business in Texas if he finds noncompliance. February 20 saw Paxton counter-sue to revoke Annunciation House’s Texas registration. “We just want a court ruling,” Wesevich said.

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