Texas says Catholic group should be shut down over ‘criminal enterprise’ at U.S. border

annunciation house Dainelys Soto, Genesis Contreras, and Daniel Soto, who arrived from Venezuela after crossing the U.S. border from Mexico, wait for dinner at a hotel provided by the Annunciation House on Sept. 22, 2022, in El Paso, Texas. | Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday filed an injunction against a Catholic nonprofit group in the state, accusing it of “systemic criminal conduct” for allegedly facilitating illegal border crossings from Mexico. 

Paxton announced the filing in a press release on his website, accusing Annunciation House in El Paso of facilitating “illegal border crossings” and of concealing “illegally present aliens from law enforcement.”

Located just a few thousand feet from the U.S.-Mexico border, Annunciation House says on its website that it serves “migrant, refugee, and economically vulnerable peoples of the border region,” primarily through “several houses of hospitality” in the region.

The group was launched in the late 1970s as a Catholic ministry that quickly became “a house of hospitality for the homeless poor,” primarily illegal immigrants. 

Paxton has been targeting Annunciation House for months, alleging that the organization has been facilitating illegal immigration. In February he filed a lawsuit against the nonprofit, asking the District Court of El Paso County to revoke the organization’s nonprofit registration and prohibit it from continuing to operate in Texas.

The district court rejected that petition in March, claiming that Paxton was seeking the closure “without regard to due process or fair play.”

On Wednesday, the attorney general claimed to have “reviewed and obtained sworn testimony” indicating that the nonprofit is engaging in illegal immigration activities.

Paxton said the group’s “own sworn testimony” as part of ongoing legal proceedings show that Annunciation House “knowingly shelters illegal aliens” and “even goes into Mexico to retrieve aliens who[m] border patrol denied.”

The Catholic group further “conceals those people in its shelters from law enforcement,” Paxton’s office alleged.

“Any [nongovernmental organization] facilitating the unlawful entry of illegal aliens into Texas is undermining the rule of law and potentially jeopardizing the safety and well-being of our citizens,” Paxton said in the press release. 

In the filing, Paxton’s office said Annunciation House “has forfeited its right to do business in this state and its registration and certificate of formation must be revoked and terminated.”

Annunciation House could not be reached for comment on Thursday morning. Attorneys representing the nonprofit were also unavailable for comment on Thursday. 

In February the organization had called Paxton’s efforts “illegal, immoral, and anti-faith,” arguing that the attorney general’s office “considers it a crime for a Catholic organization to provide shelter to refugees.”

“If the work that Annunciation House conducts is illegal — so too is the work of our local hospitals, schools, and food banks,” the group said. 

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