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Catholics Rally Around Annunciation House After Lawsuit

Annunciation House
Migrants gather at a crossing into El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Dec. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)

(RNS) — Catholics are rallying around Annunciation House, a network of Catholic migrant shelters based in El Paso, Texas, after the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, has attempted to shut down the nonprofit.

“Our church, our city and our country owe Annunciation House a deep debt of gratitude,” El Paso’s Catholic Bishop, Mark Seitz, wrote in a statement released Thursday (Feb. 22).

The bishop emphasized that the nonprofit has worked with local government and federal law enforcement partners, “stepping into the breach to take action where many will not.”

Paxton’s 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,” according to his office.

The lawsuit was filed after Annunciation House filed suit and sought a restraining order to push back on the attorney general’s demand for documents from the organization, including documentation with identifying information about their clients.

Paxton’s office said they sought the documents because they suspected Annunciation House of “facilitating illegal entry to the United States” and described their lawsuit as a “consequence” of Annunciation House’s pushback.

Ruben Garcia founded Annunciation House in 1976 after Mother Teresa visited El Paso to speak with his diocesan youth group. The ministry’s name is drawn from a letter the Catholic saint sent Garcia, urging him to bring people off the streets home to a house of annunciation.

Seitz called for a focus on “shared human dignity” instead of politics, saying that El Paso’s actions will be judged by that standard.

“I know the guests at Annunciation House, those trapped on the other side of the border and those who have died trying to cross it,” the bishop wrote.

Seitz described his diocese as “hemmed in on all sides” and “in an impossible position.”

On one hand, the bishop said, “we are challenged by serious federal neglect to provide a safe, orderly and humane response to migration at our southern border.”

And on the other, “we are now witnessing an escalating campaign of intimidation, fear and dehumanization in the State of Texas,” Seitz explained, specifically making references to Texas’ use of concertina wire and a new law making crossing the border illegally a state crime, which would allow police to arrest those suspected of breaking it.