Like many Americans, last Tuesday I found myself first in shock and then in fear for our country and the civil liberties we cherish.
This was because of how the campaign of President-elect Donald Trump stoked racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic fears, promising polices that, if enacted, would be an all-out attack on the rights of Americans.
He said he would:
- end a woman’s right to abortion.
- amass a force to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants.
- institute an aggressive surveillance program targeting Muslim Americans.
- reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture.
- change our nation’s libel laws to go after critics in the media.
The day after the election, the ACLU of Florida staff met to come to terms with our collective shock at the civil liberty challenges we are now surely facing and to begin planning how we will deploy our resources and the tens of thousands of ACLU members in Florida to respond to them.
We are now preparing to fulfill the role the ACLU has played since it was established in 1920: challenging any government abuses of rights and liberties.
People understand this about the ACLU. That’s why, since the election, the ACLU has received an unprecedented outpouring of support. We are now hard at work putting that support in action.
At the federal level, we are committed to:
- protecting the “Dreamers” who received Presidential protection against deportation and resist any attempt to create a dragnet deportation force.
- blocking any effort to deny reproductive rights or defund Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health service providers that serve women’s health.
- preserving civil rights protections for transgender Americans, especially transgender children in public schools.
- preventing stop-and-frisk policies from being adopted nationwide.
- opposing discrimination against Muslim Americans.
But the reverberations of this election will not be felt only at the federal level. The stakes are also enormously high in Florida.
We must be vigilant against efforts by Florida politicians who may seek to capitalize on the toxic anti-immigrant sentiment that fueled Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency. Laws targeting individuals based on their status as immigrants violate the fundamental right to fair and equal treatment. Immigrants in Florida are now a punching bag for opportunistic politicians seeking to make cheap political points. We will stand up for Florida’s immigrant community against discrimination.
We are prepared to fight back against attacks on women’s access to abortion and reproductive care. President-elect Trump has said he would appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would reverse Roe v. Wade, but the Florida constitution’s explicit right to privacy protects everyone in Florida. (We are now before the Florida Supreme Court challenging a mandatory waiting period imposed by the legislature before a woman can receive an abortion.)
And we must guard against efforts to undermine hard-won victories for LGBT people who want to live their lives free from discrimination. We’ve celebrated victories that brought an end to Florida’s ban on adoptions and marriage, and we are prepared to fight back against efforts to undermine those victories.
For example, if legislators attempt to pass a bill to allow discrimination against LGBT Floridians as long as people assert a religious basis, like that signed into law in Indiana last year by Vice President-elect Pence, the Florida civil rights and business communities must be prepared to forcefully respond.
We must prevent the election results from being misinterpreted to derail the momentum for criminal-justice reform. A recent study commissioned by the James Madison Institute and the Charles Koch Institute found that 72% of Floridians want reforms in the criminal justice system. We cannot allow racially charged rhetoric about “law and order” to lead our state to double-down on failed mass incarceration policies for which the cost in taxpayer dollars is matched only by their toll in human suffering.
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For its nearly 100-year history, the ACLU has fought back on behalf of everyone, regardless of race or political point of view.
We have faced difficult times in the past — from the anti-immigrant Palmer Raids in the 1920s, to the Japanese internment in the 1940s, to the McCarthy hysteria of the 1950s, to the Nixon Administration’s assault on civil liberties in the ‘70s.
In each of these crises, the ACLU stood up to presidents — stood up for the constitutional rights of Americans.
Ultimately, constitutional values prevailed. Together, we will prevail again.