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Lawsuits & Litigation

Texas Attorney General and Catholic NGO Locked in Litigation

— February 23, 2024

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is allegedly “using documents as an excuse to shut down a religious organization he doesn’t agree with.”

Annunciation House, a Catholic non-profit organization that operates several migrant shelters in El Paso, has filed a lawsuit against the Texas Office of the Attorney General.

According to The Texas Tribune, the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation into Annunciation House earlier this month. During the investigation, officials demanded the release of documentation within a single day—a request that Annunciation House has characterized as unreasonable, and for which it had earlier requested an extension.

After the state declined its request for an extension, Annunciation House filed a lawsuit against the state, asking that a court determine which documents the group is required to share with the attorney general.

Annunciation House has also asked for a restraining order against the Attorney General’s Office, which would shield it from further demands while the case is pending.

In response, Texas Attorney General announced his own lawsuit against Annunciation House, saying that the organization had failed to comply with the state’s reasonable demands and suggesting that the group’s policies are “worsening illegal immigration.”

“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,” Paxton said in a statement.

A 2013 image of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Alice Linahan Voices Empower. (CCA-BY-2.0).

Jerome Wesevich, a Texas RioGrande Legal Aid attorney representing Annunciation House, said that Paxton is trying to leverage documents requests into the worst-possible outcome for his client.

“He’s using documents as an excuse to shut down a religious organization he doesn’t agree with,” Wesevich said.

The Tribune shared excerpts of emails between Annunciation House and the Office of the Attorney General, which Wesevich says demonstrate the unreasonable urgency with which the state has demanded a response.

“Altthough the statute entitles us to immediate access, we nevertheless gave your client time to consult internally and with its attorneys regarding our Request to Examine,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Levi Fuller on February 7. “Unless your client provides us with access to the specified records in its possession by tomorrow, February 8, we will deem it to be in non-compliance.”

Annunciation House, notes the Tribune, has operated migrant shelters in El Paso for more than 50 years. Aside from providing temporary housing, the organization also feeds refugees and assists asylum-seekers in completing legal documents.

Robert Garcia, the director Annunciation House, said that the state’s actions are both illegal and immoral.

“The Attorney General’s illegal, immoral and anti-faith position to shut down Annunciation House is unfounded,” Garcia said. “If the work that Annunciation House conducts is illegal—so too is the work of our local hospitals, schools, and food banks.”


Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ken Pax­ton Sues to End NGO’s Oper­a­tions In Texas After Dis­cov­er­ing Poten­tial Efforts to Facil­i­tate Ille­gal Immigration

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