An El Paso judge has denied Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s attempt to shut down a Catholic migrant shelter that operates in the city – a decision that the local bishop is calling “an important moment for religious freedom.”

In a pair of rulings issued on July 2, Judge Francisco Dominguez, a judge of the Texas 205th District Court ruled on July 2 that the state failed to establish probable grounds to close Annunciation House, and that the state violated the shelter’s constitutional rights in its attempts to enforce a subpoena for records of migrants who the shelter has served.

In the ruling, Dominguez called Paxton’s conduct “outrageous.”

“The record before this Court makes clear that the Texas Attorney General’s use of the request to examine documents from Annunciation House was a pretext to justify its harassment of Annunciation House employees and the persons seeking refuge,” Dominguez states.

“This Court previously expressed its concerns that the Attorney General did not identify what laws he believed were being violated from the outset.” “In fact, the record before the Court now establishes that the Attorney General was seeking evidence of alleged criminal activity all along,” Dominguez continued. “This is outrageous and intolerable.”

Dominguez’s ruling prevents Paxton from seeking records from Annunciation House. It also protects the shelter from what Dominguez calls “harassment and overreaching” by Paxton’s office.

“As discussed, Annunciation House has met its burden for injunctive relief,” Dominguez states.

“First, the Attorney General’s wrongful acts against Annunciation House have no adequate remedy at law because of the Constitutional rights implicated,” Dominguez continued. “Second, the Attorney General’s conduct in harassing and pursuing predetermined outcomes, without regard to the rights of Annunciation House’s employees and guests is imminent, ongoing, and irreparable.”

Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to a Crux request for comment, but is expected to appeal.

Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso said Dominguez’s decision is “an important moment for religious freedom.”

“This is a day of gratitude for El Paso, the work of Annunciation House and the resilience of our community’s hospitality workers,” Seitz said in a July 2 statement. “This is also an important moment for religious freedom and a recognition of the important role that faith communities play in helping our nation lead with compassion and humanity in meeting the challenges of migration at the border.”

Paxton announced his lawsuit against Annunciation House, which has operated since 1978, on Feb. 20. Paxton sought to revoke the shelter’s registration to operate in the state, alleging that it “engaged in legal violations such a facilitating illegal entry to the United States, alien harboring, human smuggling, and operating a stash house,” and that it had records to prove it.

In response, Annunciation House called Paxton’s claims “unfounded,” and his attempt to shut the organization down “illegal, immoral and anti-faith.”

After the ruling, Annunciation House founder and director Ruben Garcia expressed uncertainty.

“In my heart of hearts, I would hope … that this truly would be a determining action and that this would bring it to an end. That’s my hope, that would be my prayer,” Garcia told El Paso Matters. “I’m realistic enough to know it probably won’t end here and for that I’m very sorry.”