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NEW YORK – Immigrant advocacy organizations in Texas say they have not yet been contacted by state Attorney General Ken Paxton after he pledged to launch an investigation this week, at the request of the governor, into the alleged role of non-governmental organizations in illegal border crossings.
Gov. Gregg Abbott called for the investigation on Dec. 14, citing the more than 2,500 migrants who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into El Paso on Dec. 11, and the overall recent migrant surge at the Texas-Mexico border with Title 42 set to end next week.
El Paso faith-based immigration organizations were quick to rebuke the claims, and the investigation.
Dylan Corbett, executive director of the HOPE Border Institute, said in a statement that Abbott’s call for an investigation “is a vile threat to all of us on the border working to pick up the pieces of a broken immigration system, to create legal pathways for vulnerable migrants and to offer a dignified welcome.”
“This intimidation is beneath the dignity of public service,” he said.
Joan Rosenhauer, the executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service, said in a statement to Crux that “accusations like this can create a false narrative, which can be damaging, about the work NGOs are doing at the border and ultimately cause harm to asylum-seekers and organizations serving them.”
In announcing his call for an investigation, Abbott cited reports that NGOs assisted in illegal border crossings near El Paso, and that those same NGOs and some in other border sectors also orchestrated other border crossings “through activities on both sides of the border.”
“In light of these reports, I am calling on the Texas Attorney General’s Office to initiate an investigation into the role of NGOs in planning and facilitating the illegal transportation of illegal immigrants across our borders,” Abbott said, adding that he is ready to craft legislative solutions aimed at solving the border crisis and the role of NGOs that Paxton’s office proposes.
Paxton swiftly replied to Abbott’s call saying he will launch the investigation, and pledging to take action against organizations found violating the law. He called what’s happening at the southern border “an invasion,” and placed the majority of the blame on the Biden administration.
“The Biden Administration bears the responsibility for the accompanying rise in crime, cartel activity, and lethal drugs like fentanyl flooding into communities throughout our nation,” Paxton said. “Some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may be aiding and abetting this invasion.”
Neither Abbott’s or Paxton’s offices returned a Crux request for comment on the investigation, particularly its status and which organizations would be investigated.
Hope Border Institute and JRS/USA both told Crux they have not been contacted by the attorney general’s office. Rebecca Sollao, executive director of Catholic Charities Diocese of Laredo told Crux that her organization hasn’t been contacted either. Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which operates one of the largest migrant shelters along the border in McAllen, Texas, did not immediately respond to a Crux request for comment.
The same day Abbott called for an investigation, Catholic Charities USA received a letter from four House representatives requiring it to “preserve all information related to any expenditures submitted for reimbursement from the federal government related to migrants encountered at the southern border.”
The letter is signed by Republican House representatives Lance Gooden of Texas, Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, Jake Ellzey of Texas, and Andy Biggs of Arizona. They allege in the letter that border NGOs “profit off of exploiting [U.S.] immigration laws,” and fuel the rise of migrants crossing the border.
Catholic Charities USA denied the allegations.
“Our life-saving humanitarian work neither violates federal laws nor endangers communities,” Catholic Charities USA said in response to the letter. “The federal government is fully responsible for maintaining the U.S. border and determines who enters the country.”
The organization added that the humanitarian care it provides typically starts after a migrant has been processed and released into the U.S. by the federal government. It went on to put the onus on the federal government to fix the nation’s broken immigration system.
“Let us be clear. The U.S. immigration system is in dire need of reform; Catholic Charities and all those agencies and individuals responding to this national crisis are operating with a broken system,” Catholic Charities USA said. “We urge all Americans to ask the administration and their Congressional representatives to act on this important issue, as we have done.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg