Texas off base to go after Catholic halfway house

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When Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro engaged in a legal battle with the Little Sisters of the Poor over their refusal to subsidize birth control for their employees, I got very angry.

As a Catholic who takes her faith very seriously and an asylum lawyer who knows a little something about religious persecution, it seemed to me that the then-attorney general was violating the rights of some women who just wanted to be left alone to serve God’s glory.

Of course, there are those who will disagree and believe that Shapiro was fighting to preserve the civil rights of those female employees who, for whatever reason, refused to buy their own birth control, but it’s clear that going after nuns is not a good look.

I thought I’d seen the last of that kind of chicanery from a state official, but last week brought another example of what I truly believe is anti-Catholic bigotry.

The irony is that this time it’s a Republican attorney general from Texas acting under orders from a Republican governor from Texas.

Bigotry and illegality are, apparently, bipartisan.

We all know that Greg Abbott is waging his own war against the tide of illegal immigration that is making life unlivable at the southern border. He’s tried to use constitutional arguments to support his claim that he can interfere with the federal jurisdiction over immigration.

As a lawyer, I have to give him credit for his ingenuity. Also, as a lawyer, I have to say he’s completely off base on that one.

And now there’s something else he’s wrong about. On Feb. 20, Attorney General Ken Paxton, the one they couldn’t impeach, has decided to go after Annunciation House, a private organization that acts as a halfway house and temporary shelter for people who have crossed the border.

It was founded in 1978 by a few young Catholics in the El Paso Diocese who, ironically enough, wanted to help what was then called INS to deal with the human crisis at the border.

Back then it wasn’t as serious as it is today and involved mostly single Mexican men instead of entire families from Central and South America, but there was a need to provide some humanitarian aid to the surge of human cargo.

But Paxton has decided to redefine these unpaid workers as human smugglers.

According to Paxton, “Annunciation House knows that at least some of the aliens it provides services to are present illegally and are trying to avoid Border Patrol … Annunciation House’s transportation of those aliens presents a very significant likelihood of human smuggling.”

It’s a bit disingenuous for Paxton to accuse this shelter of human smuggling. While the Texas law that prohibits human smuggling does include acts involving the transportation of undocumented aliens across the border and within the state itself, he would then have to charge his own governor with human smuggling in order to be consistent with the word of the law.

Remember when Abbott was buying bus tickets to send aliens to Northeastern cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia? Under the letter of the law, that is also human smuggling.

What Annunciation House is doing is not illegal. It’s Catholic and Christian. It provides temporary shelter, food, clothing and medical care to people who are in need of it.

I am actually more offended by this attack on Annunciation House after having visited a similar facility outside of McAllen, Texas, last year. I spent an afternoon reading books to little girls from Venezuela, Brazil and Colombia, braiding their hair, and drawing pictures with them.

In a couple of days, they and their parents would be on a bus to meet with their sponsors in the United States, usually family.

I also attended a Mass in a large gymnasium and helped a frantic father search for his missing toddler, who it turns out was hanging out with a nun.

Come to think of it, I suppose I was involved in human smuggling too. I’m more than ready for my mug shot.

I think it is a dangerous and counterproductive thing to go after religious organizations that are operating within the law and are fulfilling their spiritual mission.

Paxton can try and paint Annunciation House and places like it as centers of human trafficking, gang members, drug smugglers and all other sorts of undesirables, but the truth is that they are simply a small, humane attempt to deal with one aspect of a larger, complicated crisis.

I am in full support of laws that will stop this overflow of humanity at the border, but attacking people of faith is a despicable and ineffective way of doing that.

So, until I see Abbott’s mug shot on Fox News, I will condemn the ridiculous assault on my church and its mission.

Copyright 2024 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected].

Christine Flowers is a Philadelphian who loves the Eagles but can leave the cheesesteaks. She writes about anything that will likely annoy the majority of people, and in her spare time practices immigration law (which is bound to annoy at least some people.)