Where were you a year ago? We were digesting the election results and hoping that the Trump presidency wouldn’t be based on the same hateful ideas that made up much of his campaign. By February, we had stopped hoping and were hard at work trying to protect Rhode Island’s immigrant communities. And that was just the beginning of what has been a challenging year for our founding principles. We have been VERY busy – both challenging federal threats to our rights, and working to safeguard and expand justice in the Ocean State in response to those threats. Here’s a look at a sample month-by-month snippet of what we have been up to in resisting the Trump anti-civil rights agenda:
In January 2017, the ACLU of RI obtained a major court victory when a federal judge ruled that immigration officials and the State violated the Constitution in detaining U.S. citizen Ada Morales without probable cause in order to investigate her immigration status. The ruling came down just as President Trump issued an executive order that essentially called on state and local officials to actively participate in the conduct that the court had ruled unconstitutional.
In February, in the wake of the Trump Administration’s repeal of federal guidance assuring federal civil rights protections to transgender students, the ACLU of RI organized a coalition of 15 organizations that called on all local school districts to adopt policies that would continue to protect their rights.
In March, we drafted and distributed a comprehensive “municipal immigrant protection ordinance,” and urged every city and town to adopt it in order to protect their immigrant communities from constitutionally dubious federal immigration requests.
In April, in conjunction with all the other ACLU affiliates in New England, we filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding the release of documents on the Trump Administration’s implementation of his first failed “Muslim Travel Ban.”
In May, we sent letters – cosigned by 12 other organizations – to the Governor, Chief Justice of the RI Supreme Court, and the Attorney General, calling on them to take concrete action to protect immigrants in the state.
In June, following up on that letter, RI Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Suttell publicly condemned any attempt by ICE agents to arrest undocumented immigrants making use of the state’s court system.
In July, also responding to the May letter, Governor Raimondo announced that the R.I. State Police have issued a policy memo that limits cooperation with federal ICE agents.
In August, we received – and resolved – our first back-to-school complaint even before school started. After a school district refused, for questionable reasons, to enroll three refugee children who had moved to the district from another community, ACLU intervention prompted the school district to back down.
In September, the ACLU helped organize two dozen other organizations in a campaign that successfully persuaded Governor Raimondo to veto an under-the-radar bill that could have severely impacted the rights of thousands of immigrants to drive in the state.
In October, thanks to the work of local activists, the South Kingstown Town Council adopted a strong immigrant protection ordinance based on the ACLU of RI’s model ordinance that had been distributed in March.
In November, directly responding to an ACLU petition, the Commissioner of Education initiated a rule-making process that will require every school district in the state to adopt a comprehensive policy to protect the rights of transgender students, regardless of any federal law rollbacks.
Of course, even with all these successes, the administration’s attack on our rights shows no signs of letting up. SO WE WON’T EITHER. And to keep up our fight, we need YOUR help. Take action now: Click here to donate.