Texas AG Ken Paxton Suing to Shut Down Nonprofit He Alleges Is Facilitating Illegal Immigration

The Texas attorney general began investigating the Catholic nonprofit Annunciation House earlier this month over potential violations of state law.
Texas AG Ken Paxton Suing to Shut Down Nonprofit He Alleges Is Facilitating Illegal Immigration
Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton makes a statement at his office in Austin, Texas, on May 26, 2023. (Eric Gay/AP Photo)
Ryan Morgan

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked a state judge to shut down a nonprofit organization that operates a network of shelters in Texas, alleging that the organization appears to be facilitating illegal border crossings and human smuggling.

The Republican attorney general began investigating the Catholic nonprofit Annunciation House earlier this month over potential violations of state law. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) issued a Feb. 7 “request to examine” the nonprofit’s records, including documents detailing what services it provides to immigrants who are in the country legally or illegally.

According to Mr. Paxton, Annunciation House refused to turn over any documents and sued his office soon after, seeking to halt his efforts to obtain their records. On Tuesday, Feb. 20, Mr. Paxton announced he is asserting a counterclaim, seeking to shut down Annunciation House’s operations within the state entirely.

“OAG has complete and unlimited authority to examine business records to ensure that entities operating within the state are doing so lawfully. And the consequence of a flagrant failure to comply with such a request is that OAG may terminate the business’s right to operate in Texas,” Mr. Paxton’s office said in a press statement on Tuesday. “The OAG lawsuit seeks to revoke Annunciation House’s authorization to do business in Texas and asks the court to appoint a receiver to liquidate their assets.”

In his legal filings, Mr. Paxton states his initial request to inspect Annunciation House’s records “was not made in a vacuum.” Rather, he alleges state investigators had been monitoring the “unusually covert way” Annunciation House operates.

“Annunciation House staff also made multiple admissions that they had assisted migrants in the past in the United States who had not surrendered to border patrol, had assisted persons in Mexico in crossing over to the United States in the past, and they intended to continue these activities the future,” Mr. Paxton’s lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit further cites a January 2023, article by El Paso Matters, which described a woman and her family avoiding Border Patrol when crossing the Rio Grande, out of fear that agents would send them back to Mexico. They were then taken in by Annunciation House, according to the report. The same article describes how Annunciation House director Ruben Garcia stated his organization has helped individuals, who initially avoided border officials upon entering the United States, to make asylum claims. Mr. Paxton argues that these efforts constitute evidence that Annunciation House is harboring illegal immigrants from detection, in potential violation of Texas state law.
Mr. Paxton further argues that any of the various locations used by Annunciation House to shelter individuals who evaded border officials upon entering the United States qualify those locations as “stash houses,” which are defined in Texas law as locations used to commit offenses such as human smuggling.

Beyond the specific allegations he raised, Mr. Paxton argues that Annunciation House could be shut down, simply for challenging the OAG’s Feb. 7 request to examine the nonprofit’s records.

Annunciation House argued that the OAG’s request to examine their records was an “impossible feat” since they were given only one day to turn over documents. They countered by stating that they instead expected to respond to the records request “within 30 days.”

Mr. Paxton contends that Texas law entitles his office to immediate access to the records sought through their “request to examine” and that they had acted fairly by giving Annunciation House a day to turn over the documents, but said the 3o-day response time would be “noncompliant.” In turn, Annunciation House filed its lawsuit requesting an injunction against the attorney general.

“The attorney general came to Annunciation House on February 7, 2024, stating that the organization had one day to turn over a broad swath of records to the attorney general without an explanation,” Annunciation House said in a Wednesday press statement. “Annunciation House asked a court to decide what documents the law permits the attorney general to access. There is nothing illegal about asking a court to decide a person’s rights.”

The organization added that the attorney general “has now made explicit that its real goal is not records but to shut down the organization.”

NTD News reached out to Annunciation House with additional questions about the case but the organization did not respond by press time. In the Wednesday press statement, the organization said it will have more to say about the legal battle on Friday.