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Judge rejects Paxton’s efforts to shut down El Paso migrant shelter

A Texas judge in El Paso has shut down the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) attempt to shutter Annunciation House, a Catholic charity the office accused of “[facilitating] illegal border crossings.”

Attorney General Ken Paxton had sued the organization after it failed to turn over requested documents he believed would show it assists foreign nationals in breaking the nation’s immigration laws.

Judge Francisco Dominguez, who blocked Paxton’s original subpoenas while the legal process was ongoing, sided with Annunciation House — a nonprofit charity that “accompan[ies] the migrant, refugee, and economically vulnerable peoples of the border region” — in a Tuesday order, granting the defendants summary judgment request.

“The Texas Attorney General’s disregard for the constitutional rights of Annunciation House employees and its guests vindicates the Supreme Court’s concerns over statutes that fail to provide a process for precompliance review,” Dominguez wrote. 

“Additionally, the Attorney General’s actions in its use of the request to examine and his predetermined efforts to close down Annunciation House are substantially motivated by his retaliation against Annunciation House’s exercise of its First Amendment right to expressive association.”

He continued, “The Attorney General could have provided Annunciation House the required precompliance review that would have allowed it to investigate any alleged violations of law. Instead, the Attorney General chose to harass a human rights organization with impunity and with disregard to his duty to faithfully uphold the laws of Texas and the United States.”

The judge ordered any future subpoenas against Annunciation House be included in this lawsuit’s filings. 

Counsel for the charity told KXAN, “If he ever succeeded on his claim that he should close Annunciation House, what's gonna happen? All that's going to mean is more people in El Paso streets.”

The investigation stemmed from a request by Gov. Greg Abbott that the OAG evaluate whether nonprofit organizations were assisting some in flouting the nation’s immigration laws.

Paxton said at the time of the suit, “The chaos at the southern border has created an environment where NGOs, funded with taxpayer money from the Biden Administration, facilitate astonishing horrors including human smuggling.”

The OAG is likely to appeal the ruling to the Eighth Court of Appeals.

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