Thanks to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has more than quadrupled its membership, according to an article in The New York Times.
Before Trump’s election the group had just 400,000 members and most of its actions were out of the public eye. But now, after 15 months of the Trump presidency, the membership is over 1.8 million and it has become one of the most active and visible opponents of Trump’s agenda.
Donations to the nonprofit group have also increased exponentially. The ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, said that the organization has raised over $120 million since the 2016 presidential election. Before that watershed election, he said, donations had been in the range of just $3 million to $5 million annually.
Romero said that concerns over Trump’s attack on constitutional rights and civil liberties have brought a whole new generation of political activists into their group. “Until Trump most of our support came from people who have been with us since we challenged Nixon,” Romero told the Times. “Now we’re kind of cool. Cool’s not a word generally associated with us.”
The surge in membership, coupled with the massive increase in contributions, has for the first time given the ACLU all the resources it needs to fight Trump and other administration officials in court and elsewhere. They have been involved in more than 100 legal actions against Trump administration policies, including the White House’s series of travel bans on the citizens of several Muslim-majority nations, which happened shortly after he took office.
According to Romero, his group has over 170 times taken what he calls “Trump-related legal actions” since he became president. This number includes the filing of 83 lawsuits, Romero said.
As the Trump administration steps up its attacks on refugees and asylum seekers, the ACLU has been filing class action lawsuits and also seeking injunctions to attempt to make the government stop separating families and incarcerating children. In some cases they have already been successful, and they are continuing to fight for the legal rights of people who may have been illegally detained and deprived of due process.
The large increase in ACLU membership is a good sign for American democracy. It shows that many Americans not only disapprove of Donald Trump’s policies and actions but are willing to support the fight against them. Ultimately this may be what saves our country from becoming a dictatorship and what preserves and protects the Constitution of the United States of America.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.