The Struggle of Rubén García and Annunciation House for Hospitality and Justice

The Struggle of Rubén García and Annunciation House for Hospitality and Justice La lucha de Rubén García y Annunciation House por la hospitalidad y la justicia

THE ACCUSED| Priest Rubén García, director of Annunciation House, with 43 years of experience. (Photos/Morgan Smith- The Colorado Trade)


Morgan Smith / [email protected].

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In 1978, Ruben Garcia and other volunteers acquired space in an abandoned building that had been loaned by the El Paso diocese and created a house of hospitality for homeless migrants who were living on the streets of El Paso. He had been inspired by Mother Teresa who had visited El Paso in 1976 at his invitation. After that visit, she had encouraged him to bring poor people from the streets into what she called a “house of annunciation.”

He has maintained Annunciation House ever since and has provided shelter for more than 150,000 people. Several years ago, he wrote, “Reflecting on 40 years of hospitality, it becomes categorically clear … that hospitality is the most powerful for against not only the dehumanization of refugees and immigrants but perhaps more importantly, the dehumanization of our own selves.”

Now he is under attack.  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sued Annunciation House for failing to hand over documents concerning its clients and is attempting to close it down. Paxton has claimed that Annunciation House is violating the law by “facilitating illegal entry into the United States, alien harboring, human smuggling, and operating a stash house.”  The lawsuit “seeks to revoke Annunciation House’s authorization to do business in Texas and asks the court to appoint a receiver to liquidate its assets.”

This is a brutal and devastating attack on an extraordinary program that has provided shelter to thousands of migrants for over forty years. It is also another skirmish in Texas’ war with the US government over the management of the border and migration issues because Annunciation House has a close relationship with the Department of Homeland Security and is always available to find housing for migrants that have been released by the Department in El Paso.

Without Garcia’s assistance, Homeland Security would have to dump thousands of migrants on the streets. The issue is now in the courts, and I find it hard to believe that a judge would agree to Paxton’s request for the personal records of these thousands of migrants. Even if he loses this case, however, it is another effort at intimidation – intimidation of those many volunteers who help at Annunciation House and other shelters, intimidation of other shelters, intimidation of migrants and of officials of the Catholic Church.

La lucha de Rubén García y Annunciation House por la hospitalidad The Struggle of Rubén García and Annunciation House for Hospitality and Justice

SUPPORT | Social leaders expressed their solidarity with the cause of immigration justice.

In my experience, the shelters that are the best run are not the ones our government contracts with at great expense but the non-profits on both sides of the border. Annunciation House which is the model, Colores United in Deming, New Mexico and Respettrans and La Casa del Migrante in Juárez.On Friday, February 23, Annunciation House held a press conference in El Paso and the support from the El Paso community was overwhelming.

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar spoke as well as Bishop Mark Seitz of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, several members of the Texas legislature, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, Mayor Oscar Leeser and others. Their comments were powerful. “We will never turn our backs on anyone in need,” the mayor said. “You mess with Ruben and you’re messing with us,” Judge Samaniego added.

Congresswoman Escobar who has always been a powerful voice on migrant issues talked of the important relationship Annunciation House has with the Border Patrol. Not only is the El Paso community solidly behind Ruben Garcia but he has received letters of support from all over the United States. This is an unjustified attack not only on him and Annunciation House but another attempt to disrupt the immigration process for political purposes.

That same morning – February 23 – I had the opportunity to go with the Border Patrol west of El Paso and observed the detention of four groups of migrants who had crossed illegally into the United States. They would all be taken to the processing center but then where would they go if Annunciation House were shut down?

Seeing the extraordinarily rugged terrain that the Border Patrol has to monitor, I wondered why Paxton isn’t supporting the need for funding to hire more agents rather than attacking Annunciation House. I also took shoes and clothing to the Sacred Heart church in El Paso where migrants are housed. This is another Catholic facility.  Is Paxton going to attack it next? No one has been more dedicated to migrant tissues than the inspirational Ruben Garcia. Now is the time when he deserves our support.

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