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Northern California's ACLU Executive Director Expects a Busy Future

Monday, December 5, 2016

Abdi Soltani, Executive Director of the ACLU of Northern California, recently spoke out in a Q&A to The Recorder about his future work after the election and what it means for Californians. You can meet him at our upcoming program on Wednesday, December 7thDo We Have What We Need to Protect Our Communities?.

This article originally appeared in The Recorder. Read the full article here


Before Trump Take Office, Local ACLU Chief Gears Up

Q: What was your reaction as the presidential election results came in the night of Nov. 8?

A: On my mind were the extremely troubling campaign promises Donald Trump made throughout his campaign. We have now elected a candidate whose policy proposals, should they be enacted, will be plainly unlawful and unconstitutional. This summer, the ACLU released the "Trump Memos," analyzing Donald Trump's positions and finding that his proposals violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Q: What happened when you arrived at the ACLU office Wednesday morning?

A: We gathered for a staff meeting and we reflected on the election together. On one wall of our conference room we have a mural that illustrates decades of critical battles for civil rights and civil liberties in California. We talked about our clients, who over the years have faced government overreach and oppression and have been willing to challenge the violation of their rights in the court of law. Their courage, their tenacity and their history of standing up for their beliefs will inspire us in the months and years to come.

Q: What has been the response from the public?

A: It's time to fight. People are looking for ways to get involved. In the days since the election, over 1,100 people have signed up to volunteer at the ACLU of Northern California affiliate alone. We'll also be working with volunteers to connect them with local organizations that are doing crucial work and could also utilize the skills and time of folks who are eager to help.

We recently did a survey of our online supporters, and they reported being most interested in seeing calls to action right now. It's incredibly inspiring to see that Californians are ready to fight for each other and for the rights of people throughout our country.

At the national level, we have seen a renewed sense of urgency from hundreds of thousands of Americans to protect civil liberties. This is the greatest outpouring of support for the ACLU in our nearly 100-year history. All of this support will be put to good use protecting the rights of all Americans.

Q: ACLU executive director Anthony Romero has said that challenging Trump policies will be "the fight of our lives." What does that mean for the Northern California office?

A: In the days and weeks to come, we will be working to ensure that Californians and people across the country know their rights and how to exercise them. It's important that we bolster our local and state laws, while protecting Californians from unconstitutional federal policies.

We work on a broad range of issues here in Northern California, and we will continue to do so. But in particular, we will be prepared for any attempts to create a dragnet deportation force in California. At the local level, law enforcement needs to make sure it's avoiding unconstitutional entanglements with [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and a system of mass deportations.

We are also keeping a particularly watchful eye on the proposed ban levied against Muslims entering the United States, and the potential for increased government surveillance and discrimination against American Muslims.