Attorney General-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN) announced Friday that he has named John Keller to serve as his chief deputy attorney general. Keller currently oversees the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, a vehemently anti-Trump non-profit that provides legal services to illegal aliens and refugees.
According to a press release from Ellison’s transition team, Keller began working at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM) in 1998 as a staff attorney, and has served as its executive director since 2005.
“In that time, he has transformed ILCM from a small, regional legal-services organization with five staff to Minnesota’s leading provider of free, high-quality, and comprehensive legal, policy, and education services with five offices statewide, 32 employees—a majority of whom are from immigrant, refugee, or mixed-family backgrounds—more than 350 trained pro bono attorneys, and a statewide and national reputation,” the press release explains.
Keller and the ILCM have become outspoken critics of the Trump administration and its immigration polices, and have repeatedly taken actions to thwart Trump’s agenda in Minnesota.
Last December, for instance, Keller helped secure $250,000 in taxpayer funds from Hennepin County to launch a legal defense fund for county residents facing deportation. The fund was criticized by Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson for using taxpayer money to help people who have violated the country’s immigration laws, The Star Tribune reported.
ILCM currently operates 10 different legal projects, including a “Detainee Assistance Project” that provides “full representation for detained clients who qualify for asylum or other relief,” and a “DREAMers Immigration Project,” which offers “legal representation and outreach for youth who were brought to the U.S. as children.”
Its “Minnesota Family Naturalization Project” claims to focus on “increasing the number of permanent residents in Minnesota who naturalize as U.S. citizens.”
In various press releases, Keller has condemned the actions of the Trump administration, most recently its use of tear gas at the southern border.
“The current administration has intentionally escalated and manipulated this refugee crisis. It has shown its cynical bad faith by acting unlawfully and without regards for international human rights, settled U.S. law, and human dignity,” Keller said in November. “This administration’s actions towards immigrants and refugees continue to corrupt the very soul of who we strive to be as expressed by our national motto, E Pluribus Unum.”
After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration’s travel ban in June, Keller flatly stated that the “decision is wrong.”
“Just as it was wrong in Korematsu, upholding the internment of Japanese-Americans, and wrong in Dred Scott, upholding slavery,” Keller continued. “More than 70 years later, the Court today overturned Korematsu, acknowledging that was the wrong decision. We hope it does not take as long for the Court to recognize that today’s decision is equally wrong.”
In response to the administration’s attempt to limit asylum claims to official ports of entry in November, Keller called the moved an “illegal, anti-immigrant action.”
“The United States is a nation governed by laws, not by presidential prejudice or whim,” he added. “We will not give up the values of the United States, the commitment to this nation of laws and checks and balances, and our obligation to respect human rights and human dignity.”
According to ILCM’s website, it provided legal resources in 2017 to 4,582 people from 113 different countries, with 1,763 of those cases coming from Mexico.
On Friday, Ellison said he could “think of no one better suited to help [him] serve the people of Minnesota.”
“He brings to the Attorney General’s Office a unique combination of deep grassroots understanding of the struggles that all Minnesotans face, and deep connection to and recognition from the legal community in Minnesota and across the country,” he added.
Keller said he was “honored to help implement Keith Ellison’s vision as chief deputy attorney general.”
“It represents the perfect opportunity to continue on a larger scale the work to which I’ve dedicated my professional life: helping to transform lives and strengthen our democratic legal systems and protections,” Keller said.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “John Keller” by Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.