(The Center Square) – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has opened an investigation into the Texas Bar Foundation for “possibly aiding and abetting the mass influx of illegal aliens” into Texas and the U.S.
His office launched the investigation after U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, filed a complaint and members of the public expressed concerns about the foundation’s alleged involvement in facilitating illegal immigration.
The foundation claims on its website that it’s “the largest charitably funded bar foundation in the nation” and its members are among “the most elite Texas attorneys.” Since 1965, it has donated more than $22 million in grants to charitable organizations across Texas, it says.
The foundation “is alleged to have knowingly given donations to entities that encourage, participate in, and fund illegal immigration at the Texas-Mexico border, and potentially using taxpayer dollars received from the State Bar of Texas, which appoints the Foundation’s trustees,” according to the attorney general’s office. If the allegations are true, using taxpayer funds and making donations to entities that are facilitating illegal immigration is “likely an improper use of charitable funds,” the attorney general’s office says.
“Unfortunately, at the very time that our state is facing an unprecedented border crisis and our brave men and women are serving Texas in Operation Lone Star, it appears that the liberal State Bar’s handpicked cronies are misusing charitable funds to make the situation even worse,” Paxton said in a statement. “I will not let this illegal behavior continue any further.”
Paxton’s office has requested the foundation to provide it with documentation related to grants awarded to immigration-related charitable programs and organizations over the past 10 years, as well as information about its monitoring, reporting and accountability requirements for use of the funds.
It’s also asked for documents supporting the foundation’s final accounting and reporting from the grantee organizations to show how the funds were used, in addition to other information.
The foundation did not respond to a request for comment. It includes on its website organizations it’s given money to and for what purposes.
In 2020-2021, it donated to many organizations to provide a range of services, including:
$50,000 to ProBAR (American Bar Association Fund for Justice and Education) to “empower detained immigrants with high-quality legal education and representation and serve adults and unaccompanied children in immigration detention in the Rio Grande Valley”;$27,000 to Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle to provide refugee and immigration legal services, citizenship classes, and youth mentoring programs;$20,000 to Catholic Charities Dallas to provide screenings and legal representation for low-income DACA residents;$20,000 to Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Inc., to support pro bono representation for indigent asylum seekers, including applications for legal status and employment;$20,000 to the International Rescue Committee to “ensure that immigrants facing deportation can access legal representation regardless of income, race, origin, or criminal history”;$20,000 to Catholic Charities of Central Texas to provide financial assistance to individuals unable to pay immigration application filing fees;$25,500 to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston to provide “strategic remote outreach and mobilization of resources” to immigrants;$20,000 to Fe y Justicia Workers Center to assist with immigration cases and support “workers’ empowerment by obtaining their stolen wages.”
The foundation is led by Executive Director Angela Castilleja and a board of trustees chaired by Houstonian Wendy Burgower, a partner at Schlanger Silver.