At its recent People Power event, the ACLU launched a campaign to create Freedom Cities – cities across the U.S. that are welcoming to immigrants and uphold individuals’ fundamental rights.
“We at the ACLU believe that one of the strongest sources of our political power is towns and cities across the United States,” announced Faiz Shakir, the ACLU’s National Political Director. “Towns and cities have constitutional sovereignty; they have constitutional rights of their own. And we believe cities should be cities of resistance to Donald Trump.”
The Freedom Cities campaign fosters grassroots activism that supports vulnerable communities such as immigrants, refugees and Muslims. It will focus on several issues, including the protection of LGBT communities, equal pay, fair housing, and policing reform. But its first crusade will be about immigration.
As we have reported, the Trump administration is attempting to persuade or coerce city and state law enforcement agencies to become cogs in its mass deportation machine. Freedom Cities activists will counter this move by coming together to ensure their local law enforcement agents do not threaten but defend our friends, families, and neighbors.
The ACLU has worked with law enforcement to draft nine “model” state and local law enforcement rules that Freedom Cities will be encouraged to adopt. These include:
• The Don’t Ask Rule: “[County/City/State] officials shall not inquire into the immigration or citizenship status of an individual, except where the inquiry relates to a legitimate law enforcement purpose that is unrelated to the enforcement of a civil immigration law, or where required by state or federal law to verify eligibility for a benefit, service, or license conditioned on verification of certain status.”
• The Fair and Impartial Policing Rule: “No [County/City/State] official shall interrogate, arrest, detain or take other law enforcement action against an individual based upon that individual’s perceived race, national origin, religion, language, or immigration status, unless such personal characteristics have been included in timely, relevant, credible information from a reliable source, linking a specific individual to a particular criminal event/activity.”
(For a list of all nine policies, visit the ACLU’s Action Guide. )
These policies are “smart policing,” Shakir said, “because when we engage in this kind of behavior, we aren’t turning our community against one another.”
How can you help turn your home into a Freedom City?
People Power activists across the nation are setting up meetings with their local law enforcement officials to ask if they’re willing to discuss plans to transform their communities into Freedom Cities. You can visit peoplepower.org to find out how to organize such a meeting, or enter your ZIP code to find a meeting taking place near you. Find out more about these meetings at the Freedom Cities Action Guide page.
“This is how we build something,” Shakir says. “I trust that if we do this together, we will have meaningful impact. This could really change the way Donald Trump goes about his business. We can really make our country a better country.”