Press Release

Attorney General Ellison once again leads fight to protect Liberians from deportation

Co-leads coalition of 14 states in supporting appeal of dismissal of lawsuit against Trump Administration order to end DED protections

Third time this year that AG Ellison moves to protect Liberians against President’s attempt to terminate status

November 26, 2019 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today once again led a coalition of states in moving to protect Liberians who are beneficiaries of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) from deportation. Today, Attorney General Ellison and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey co-led a coalition of 14 states in filing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs-appellants in African Communities Together v. Trump, who have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to reverse the federal district court’s dismissal of their lawsuit.

This is the third time this year that Attorney General Ellison has co-led an amicus brief in supporting Liberians with DED against President Trump’s attempt to terminate their status.

“Every Minnesotan deserves to live with dignity and respect, and every Minnesota community thrives when our Liberian neighbors, co-workers, caregivers, and friends thrive. Liberians are woven into the fabric of every community in our state. As long as the Trump Administration keeps trying to deport Liberians from their longtime homes in Minnesota, I’ll keep fighting for them,” Attorney General Ellison said.

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 Minnesota for decades, building families, participating in the workforce, and contributing to their communities. Attorney General Ellison and the coalition argue that the Trump Administration’s attempt to terminate DED for these long-term residents of the United States would force them to return to dangerous conditions in Liberia.

Attorney General Ellison also argues that terminating DED for Liberians would harm Minnesota by putting at risk the welfare of thousands of children born to Liberian parents but raised in the United States. In addition, he argues that Minnesota’s economy and communities would be harmed if DED were terminated. This is particularly true in the areas of health care and social assistance where many Liberians care for Minnesotans every day.

Background on DED

DED is an immigration program authorized by the President that allows foreign nationals whose countries have experienced armed conflict, civil unrest, natural disasters, or public health crises to stay in the country lawfully. 

Liberian nationals have been protected by either DED or Temporary Protected Status since 1991, and continuously by DED since 2007, following the outbreak of civil war in Liberia in 1989 that led to many Liberians fleeing for safety to the United States. Liberia also suffered the largest outbreak in history of the Ebola virus. Some Liberian immigrants have been beneficiaries of DED for more than two decades. Until now, all presidents have extended DED for Liberians.

Timeline of the case

On March 27, 2018, President Trump issued a directive terminating DED protections for Liberians effective March 31, 2019. A group of plaintiffs who are scheduled to lose DED protections because of President Trump’s directive filed suit against it on March 8, 2019.

On March 27, 2019, one year to the day after the President’s directive and four days before DED for Liberians would have been terminated, Attorney General Ellison co-led a multi-state group of 10 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs’ motion to enjoin the President from ending DED protections. 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 plaintiffs’ lawsuit. On August 2, Attorney General Ellison co-led 13 state attorneys general in opposing the motion to dismiss.

On October 25, the district court concluded that the Liberian plaintiffs have suffered injury because of the substantial risk that termination of DED will lead to deportation. However, because the court also ruled that it had no ability to order President Trump to extend the deadline for ending DED, it dismissed the suit.

In the amicus brief filed today in support of the plaintiff-appellants’ appeal of the dismissal of the suit, Attorney General Ellison and the coalition argue that the district court erred in dismissing it because the court could have enjoined the Secretary of Homeland Security from implementing the President’s directive. Indeed, the President’s directive explicitly stated: “I hereby direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to take appropriate measures to accomplish … [t]he termination of DED for all Liberian beneficiaries effective March 31, 2020.”

Joining Attorney General Ellison and Massachusetts Attorney General Healey in filing today’s brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington. The brief is available on Attorney General Ellison’s website.