Media Contact

Lynette Kalsnes,, 612-270-8531

March 17, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.  — The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is pleased to announce the selection of Deepinder Singh Mayell as its next executive director. He will start on May 10.

Mayell brings two decades of advocacy and legal experience protecting the rights and dignity of marginalized and disenfranchised communities. He comes to the ACLU-MN from the University of Minnesota Law School, where he served as executive director of the James H. Binger Center for New Americans. He was instrumental during the establishment of this nationally recognized clinical law program, designed to reform the immigration system through litigation and advocacy. Before that, he was director of the Refugee & Immigrant Program at The Advocates for Human Rights in Minneapolis. He headed this legal services program, which supported pro bono attorneys who represent asylum seekers throughout the United States.

“The ACLU-MN is on the frontlines of the most important civil rights fights at one of the most critical times in modern U.S. history,” Mayell said. “Minnesota in particular sits at the apex of so many critical issues, from immigrants’ rights and rethinking policing to protecting voting and reproductive rights. While the threats to our civil liberties are serious, I am also inspired and hopeful to lead this talented and inspiring team that has consistently risen to meet these challenges.”

Mayell will step into the leadership role as the ACLU-MN celebrates its 70th anniversary. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization protects and promotes the civil liberties of all Minnesotans through legal, legislative and community engagement work. The organization’s issues include racial justice, and immigrant, free speech, privacy, reproductive health care, and LGBTQ rights. 

The ACLU-MN Board’s search committee, led by Board Vice Chair Lariss Maldonado, conducted a national search. The committee did an in-depth assessment, including meeting with staff, board members, allies, and donors to identify the key attributes and skills needed to lead the organization into the future.

“Deepinder Singh Mayell fit what we needed to a T — he brings a lifetime of advocacy, impressive leadership acumen, demonstrated experience in several ACLU-MN core issue areas, notable legal prowess, and expertise in EDIB (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging),” said ACLU-MN Board Chair Nicole Moen. “Most importantly, the board was inspired by his strategic vision for the organization, and his energy to tackle continuous challenges to our precious civil liberties. We are confident that our stakeholders will be just as inspired as we are. We are honored to have Deepinder join our team.”

The ACLU-MN is grateful to Chief Programs Officer Ben Feist for his leadership during the transition. Feist stepped in as interim executive director on July 1, 2021, following the retirement of former Executive Director John Gordon. Feist will return to his role as chief programs officer.

PRONOUNCER for Deepinder Singh Mayell: duh-PIND-er SING MAY-elle (may like the month)


Deepinder Singh Mayell Bio:

Deepinder Singh Mayell brings two decades of legal and advocacy experience supporting innovative strategies to protect the rights and dignity of marginalized communities. He comes to the ACLU-MN from the James H. Binger Center for New Americans at the University of Minnesota Law School, where he served as executive director. He worked closely with faculty, staff, law firms, and allies to develop the center’s programs, including working with the ACLU-MN to create legal immigration clinics in rural areas. During his leadership, the center became a national leader in impact litigation and a hub for training new attorneys, with work centered around addressing injustices in our immigration and criminal legal systems, and dismantling structures built on disenfranchisement, racial exclusion, and the lineages of slavery.

Before that, Mayell was the director of the Refugee & Immigrant Program at The Advocates for Human Rights in Minneapolis. He directed the organization’s legal services program, which provided representation to asylum seekers at all levels of litigation, including before the U.S. Supreme Court. He led its national asylum project, which supports pro bono attorneys representing asylum seekers throughout the United States. Mayell spent several years as a staff attorney with Merrimack Valley Legal Services in Massachusetts, where he represented victims of domestic violence in family, immigration, and housing proceedings.

A graduate of Brooklyn Law School, Mayell has spent his career working for vulnerable populations. His past research work has included the constitutionality of prolonged detention of prisoners at Guantanamo, and research on labor conditions in apparel factories in Jakarta, Indonesia. Prior to law school, Mayell was a community organizer in Boston, working with community members, primarily youth, on a variety of issues related to anti-racism and anti-militarism.

Mayell also brings a strong background in EDIB efforts, serving as co-chair of the Racial Justice and Equity Committee at the University of Minnesota Law School. He is an appointed member of the Legal Services Advisory Committee, which allocates funding from the state Legislature to statewide legal services programs.