January 15, 2019 | Office of Attorney General Keith Ellison

Press Release

Attorney General Ellison’s office off to busy start helping people afford their lives and live with dignity

In just two days, Ellison promises action to protect Minnesotans during federal government shutdown; AGO prevails in cases blocking federal government from adding citizenship question to 2020 Census and from limiting access to reproductive healthcare; Ellison moves to defend Indian children, culture, and sovereignty

January 15, 2019 (SAINT PAUL) — Attorney General Ellison is off to a busy start helping Minnesotans afford their lives and live with dignity and respect.

On Tuesday morning, January 15, Attorney General Ellison announced today that he is exploring all legal options for holding the federal government accountable for keeping its promises to Minnesotans during the federal government shutdown, and for seeing that Minnesota taxpayers are reimbursed for any costs of covering services for people during the shutdown that the federal government previously promised to cover.

“People have every reason to rely on the promises the federal government has made,” Ellison said. “My office and I are busy exploring the remedies available to us to make sure these promises are kept and the federal government meets its obligations to the people of Minnesota. We are working to ensure that every single penny that Minnesotans have a reason to expect, they will get.”

Attorney General Ellison joined Governor Tim Walz, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans, Department of Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, a bipartisan set of legislators, a broad range of faith leaders, and community members to stress that Minnesota State government is united in its desire to keep people, particularly those who are vulnerable to food insecurity, from suffering as a result of the federal government shutdown.

Also on Tuesday morning, January 15, in a ruling in a multistate lawsuit in which the Attorney General’s Office represented the State of Minnesota as a plaintiff, a U.S. district court judge in New York ruled that the federal government cannot add a question to the 2020 Census to ask people if they are United States citizens. The judge agreed with the states’ argument that U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated federal law and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in adding the question to the 2020 Census.

“My guiding value is that everybody counts, everybody matters. In the case of the Census, it’s essential that everybody be counted,” Attorney General Ellison said. “The evidence clearly showed that this question would have dramatically undercounted people. Keeping it off the Census will help ensure a fair count, fair representation, and fair allocation of resources for the people of Minnesota and every state.”

On Monday morning, January 14, in a ruling in a multistate lawsuit in which the Attorney General’s office represented the Minnesota Department of Human Services as a plaintiff, a U.S. district court judge in California blocked the Trump administration from imposing new rules under the Affordable Care Act that would allow employers to use their personal religious beliefs to deny employees coverage of contraception and birth control.

“We joined this lawsuit to help women keep their access to reproductive healthcare under the ACA because all women, like all people, should be able to afford their lives and live with dignity,” Attorney General Ellison said. “Of course employers are entitled to their personal religious beliefs: it’s unlawful, unconstitutional, and wrong for the Administration to let employers impose their personal religious beliefs on their employees to keep women from getting affordable birth control. Because we joined this lawsuit, the Trump Administration’s new rule will not take effect in Minnesota for now. Minnesota women will continue to have affordable access to reproductive healthcare.”

On Monday afternoon, January 14, Attorney General Ellison joined a bipartisan coalition of 20 states in filing an amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to defend the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in Brackeen v. Zinke. ICWA is a 40-year-old federal law that furthers the best interests of Native American children and protects the sovereignty of Indian tribes by preserving children’s connections to their tribal heritage and culture.

A federal court district judge in Texas ruled much of ICWA unconstitutional in October 2018. As part of the appeal to the Fifth Circuit, the amicus brief that Attorney General Ellison joined argues that ICWA is a legitimate exercise of Congressional authority, that it does not violate the Constitution, and that it has proven to be a critical and successful tool for fostering state-tribal collaboration in order to improve the health and welfare of Indian children.

“The principle that guides me as Attorney General is to help Minnesotans live with dignity. The 11 sovereign Indian nations that share the state of Minnesota with us have relied for 40 years on ICWA to defend their children, their culture, their dignity, and their sovereignty. ICWA is a promise Congress made to American Indian people. I’m proud to join the appeal to uphold that promise,” Ellison said.