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Texas judge questions AG’s ‘true motivation’ as he rules against bid to shutter non-profit helping migrants

Texas judge questions AG’s ‘true motivation’ as he rules against bid to shutter non-profit helping migrants

A judge in Texas has ruled in favour of a non-profit organisation sheltering migrants on the US-Mexico border after the state’s Attorney General ordered it to hand over a large number of records.

AG Ken Paxton said in February that his office believed Annunciation House was helping people to illegally enter the United States, “alien harbouring” and people smuggling.

The non-profit, which operates migrant shelters in and around El Paso, asked for more time to hand over the files requested by Mr Paxton’s office.

The Attorney General then announced his office was suing Annunciation House, seeking to revoke its licence to operate.

However, on Thursday El Paso County District Judge Francisco X. Dominguez abruptly put a stop to Mr Paxton’s efforts.

“The Attorney General’s efforts to run roughshod over Annunciation House, without regard to due process or fair play, call into question the true motivation for the Attorney General’s attempt to prevent Annunciation House from providing the humanitarian and social services that it provides,” the judge said in his ruling.

“There is a real and credible concern that the attempt to prevent Annunciation House from conducting business in Texas was predetermined.”

Neither Ken Paxton’s office nor Annunciation House returned requests for further comment from The Independent before publication. Judge Dominguez has ordered the AG’s office to go through the courts if it wishes to continue its investigation.

When the lawsuit was announced on 20 February, Mr Paxton said his office had “complete and unlimited authority” to examine business records and that failure to comply with a request could lead to termination of its right to operate within Texas.

The AG then immediately brought up the issues at the border with Mexico.

“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,” Attorney General Paxton said.

“While the federal government perpetuates the lawlessness destroying this country, my office works day in and day out to hold these organisations responsible for worsening illegal immigration.”

However, the organisation argues that it is just trying to help the around 300 undocumented migrants in its care to get processed by authorities, so they can live the American dream and lead a safer life.

In an article in January, Annunciation House’s director Ruben Garcia said that asylum seekers were afraid of US authorities, though.

“They’re saying, ‘We want to present ourselves. We want to get processed. We want to proceed with our asylum.’ So from that was born the idea, let’s have a workshop on asylum,” Mr Garcia told El Paso Matters.

“It’s about enabling asylum seekers to actually access the asylum process, which is their right to do, which has been denied.”

The Annunciation House case is being seen as part of a wider effort by both Ken Paxton and Texas Governor Greg Abbott to target organisations they see as supporting widespread, illegal immigration into the US.

The Texas Tribune reports that the state has spent over $10 billion since March 2021 on Operation Lone Star - meant to deter people from crossing over from Mexico.