In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory, on November 8, 2016, the American Union for Civil Liberties (ACLU), one of the oldest organizations for the defense of freedoms in the United States, posted an unequivocal message on its site : ” Go to court “. The association kept its word. Four years later, the ACLU took stock of the Trump years: 400 lawsuits against the government. “Attacks on civil rights and freedoms have never been greater in modern American history”, says Anthony Romero, director of the New York association founded exactly one hundred years ago.
During Republican President George W. Bush’s first term, the ACLU had taken only 13 lawsuits against the federal government: most related to the anti-terrorism policy of the post-September 11, 2001 Republican administration. Taking office from Donald Trump, the association filed 237 complaints and brought 160 other legal actions: requests for consultation of documents, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), complaints for violations of the rules ethical.
According to an Associated Press tally, 174 of the 237 main complaints concern the rights of immigrants, the separation of families on the Mexican border and obstacles to the application of international asylum law. The others relate to gay rights and racial justice. One of the latest lawsuits is the 2020 census. The Trump administration wanted to impose a citizenship question on the form sent to residents every ten years. The ACLU won in the Supreme Court.
Seen by the association, the portrait of Donald Trump’s mandate is that of the constant questioning of constitutional freedoms. “It was not the first time that we had dealt with a Republican president. We had a model “, describes Brigitte Amiri, the deputy director in charge of the abortion advocacy program. The lawyers were nonetheless surprised. “I hadn’t anticipated how far it could go, adds Lee Gelernt, in charge of immigration. Separating two year olds from their mothers is the worst thing I have seen in thirty years. “
“Victory for the rule of law”
Some of the lawsuits brought by the ACLU have ended in failure. Others by a “Victory for the rule of law”, according to legal experts. Brigitte Amiri’s team succeeded in preventing the Ministry of Justice from limiting the right to abortion for migrant women held in detention centers. “I never thought they would go so far as to take a woman hostage by preventing her from going out to access reproductive health services,” explains the lawyer in the documentary released at the end of July, The Fight, which traces the association’s four years of struggle.
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