Texas government attempts to clamp down on charity that distributes aid to migrants

Plus, a warning for Democrats to consider as the election cycle picks up.

Top Headlines

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is targeting an El Paso nonprofit that has spent decades providing resources to hundreds of thousands of migrants. Annunciation House, a Catholic charity that organizes temporary shelter, food services and medical care to refugees coming from Central America, is a crucial institution for a city that is often a liminal space between the border and the final destinations of migrants.

But Paxton claims that Annunciation House is engaged in trafficking migrants. 

“The chaos at the southern border has created an environment where (nongovernmental organizations), funded with taxpayer money from the Biden administration, facilitate astonishing horrors including human smuggling,” Paxton explained in a statement. “While the federal government perpetuates the lawlessness destroying this country, my office works day in and day out to hold these organizations responsible for worsening illegal immigration.”

In a court filing that the Attorney General’s office served Annunciation House, the organization is also accused of helping undocumented migrants avoid Border Patrol. The Feb. 7 legal action was in regard to demands by Paxton to review the charity’s internal documents from Jan. 22 to the present. 

However, 205th District Court Judge Francisco Dominguez of El Paso blocked Paxton’s efforts, allowing Annunciation House and its founder, Ruben Garcia, to file a restraining order against the document request. 

Garcia had long feared that the Texas government would target his efforts to provide relief to migrants. In early January 2023, Garcia told a group of U.S. senators who were visiting El Paso that Annunciation House workers feared legal retaliation. 

“The church is at risk because the volunteers are asking themselves, ‘If I feed someone who’s unprocessed, if I give someone a blanket who’s unprocessed, if I help them get off the street, am I liable to be prosecuted for that?’” Garcia said. “Shame on us, that on this day, this is even being brought up in the United States.”

Policy Corner

While Republican operatives and conservative media figures have gone out of their way to paint America’s economic circumstances as dramatically more dire than they are, it’s important to validate that many Americans are not enjoying the fruits of the rebounding economy.

A new essay by Katherine J. Cramer and Jonathan D. Cohen in The New York Times bears this out. Cramer, Cohen and a group of researchers have spent the past two years speaking with Americans of every background, class and geography. And the consensus is pretty clear: There’s a disconnect between economic data and the actual experience of working people in the country. 

While inequality has fallen in regards to wages, precarity — especially in the context of the cost of living and the debt one is required to take on to withstand those costs — was a crucial sentiment. 

“Without a safety net that can propel people into security, the threat of these costs will continue to make many Americans feel unstable, uncertain and decidedly unhappy about the economy,” Cramer and Cohen explain. “A helpful starting point would be to address benefit cliffs — income eligibility cutoffs built into certain benefits programs. As households earn more money, they can make themselves suddenly ineligible for benefits that would let them build up enough wealth to no longer need any government support.” 

And until Democrats and the Biden administration respond to these critical circumstances, they’ll seem out of touch with large swaths of the country. Winning reelection will mean listening to these concerns, rather than calling voters expressing such sentiments as out of touch. 

“Geography plays a major role… In some parts of the country — particularly rural areas — many people feel they have been left out of the progress and promise of the high-tech economy,” Cramer and Cohen conclude. “Even if their finances remain in good health, they seem to fear for the future of their community, and they blame the economy.” 

Subscribe to The Lede

Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.
Jamie Larson