Press Release

Attorney General Ellison moves to defend Liberians from deportation

Co-leads coalition of 15 states in amicus brief supporting suit to halt Trump’s termination of DED

August 2, 2019 (SAINT PAUL) — Today, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, along Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey co-led a coalition of 15 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of legal action to halt the Trump Administration’s termination of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for thousands of Liberians who have been living, working, and raising their families in the United States for decades, including many in Minnesota.

In the brief filed in African Communities Together v. Trump in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Attorney General Ellison and the other attorneys general oppose the federal government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and argue to preserve DED for Liberians. Deferred Enforced Departure is an immigration program authorized by the President to protect foreign nationals whose countries have experienced armed conflict, civil unrest, natural disasters, or public health crises. The states contend the Trump Administration’s attempt to terminate DED will inflict widespread harm on Liberian families and their communities. 

“I co-led this coalition today to defend Liberians with DED because like all Minnesotans, they deserve to live with safety, dignity, and respect,” Attorney General Ellison said. “Liberians in Minnesota are woven into the fabric of our communities. They’re our neighbors, co-workers, and friends. So many work in healthcare that they’re our caregivers, too. Many Liberians have known no other country in their lives than America, and their children are American citizens. I’ll use the powers of my office to defend all of them from the harm President Trump would do to them,” Ellison concluded.

With this most recent amicus brief, the attorneys general are siding again with the plaintiffs. On March 27, 2019, Massachusetts and Minnesota lead a multi-state group in filing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs’ motion to enjoin the President from ending DED protections for Liberians on March 31. A hearing on the motion was scheduled for the next day, March 28. On the day of the hearing, President Trump issued a new directive that extended DED protections for one more year, until March 31, 2020.

On July 1, 2019, the Trump Administration moved to dismiss the lawsuit. Today’s amicus brief from the states argues against the motion to dismiss. Among other points, the attorneys general argue that the President’s power to extend the DED deadline does not eliminate Plaintiffs’ harm or make the suit moot.

Since the 1980s, Liberia has experienced a series of internal armed conflicts and the largest outbreak of the Ebola virus in history, killing and displacing thousands. Liberian nationals were first granted DED in 1999. As DED-holders, Liberians are not subject to immigration detention and removal and can legally reside and work in the United States. Many have lived in the United States for decades, building families, participating in the workforce, and contributing to their communities. The states argue that the Trump Administration’s attempt to abruptly terminate DED for these long-term residents of the United States would force them to return to dangerous conditions in Liberia.

Terminating DED for Liberians would also put at risk the welfare of thousands of children born to Liberian parents but raised in the United States. The brief argues that these children, who are U.S. citizens, are already suffering in fear of their parents’ removal from the country as a result of the President’s decision to end DED protections. Studies show that fears about family members’ deportations can cause children to experience serious mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, and impair their socioemotional and cognitive development. Forced separation from a parent is a traumatic event that could result in these children losing not only a loving family and safe home, but also their economic stability and wellbeing.

The states also argue that Liberians make valuable contributions to the economy. A large population of Liberians work in the health care and social assistance industries, filling a growing need for workers in these fields. These workers support state economies and their removal would inflict widespread harm on the communities in which they live and work.  

Attorney General Ellison and Massachusetts Attorney General Healey were joined in filing today’s brief by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.