Freedom Cities Action Guide
When President Trump first introduced his unconstitutional Muslim ban, the ACLU took him to court and won. After his first Muslim ban was struck down, he introduced another version that was also struck down. Together, we will continue to beat him both in the court of law and in the court of public opinion whenever he attempts to enact any of the countless aspects of his unconstitutional and un-American agenda.
In November 1919, when thousands of people were -- unconstitutionally and without warrant -- rounded up and deported by the U.S. Attorney General, he used the cover of irrational fear to ignore our Constitution and take away the basic freedoms afforded to all people, much like President Trump does today.
That same year, a small group of Americans came together to take a stand and say with one voice “No.” These courageous activists founded the ACLU.
For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has worked in our courts and legislatures to defend and preserve the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Now, in response to the unprecedented threat of President Trump's attack on our basic freedoms, the ACLU is recruiting grassroots activists like you to organize actions in your community in support of our civil liberties.
“People have known us for, ‘See you in court,’” ACLU political director Faiz Shakir says. “I hope now they’ll also know us for, ‘See you in the streets.’”
Trump’s Muslim ban may have lead the news, but the Trump administration agenda is much more far reaching than banning refugees and those traveling here from Muslim nations. Here within our borders, immigrants -- and even American citizens who are mistaken for immigrants -- are under attack by federal authorities carrying out the Trump agenda.
This Freedom Cities Action Guide will outline some of the major threats that members of our communities are facing as a result of the Trump agenda, and a way you can be part of the solution by engaging in grassroots action in support of a massive new ACLU initiative called “Freedom Cities.”
President Trump is seeking to recruit, and where that fails, compel local law enforcement agencies to help his administration pursue its mass deportation agenda.
In response to this effort and many other Trump administration plans that fly in the face of our Constitution and norms, the ACLU launched an ambitious campaign called “Freedom Cities.” On immigration, just like activists organized locally to demand the release of people detained at our airports by federal authorities, People Power activists are organizing in our communities to ensure that our local law enforcement officials defend – not threaten – our friends, families, and neighbors. People Power will be a powerful grassroots force supporting the ACLU’s efforts to propose, support, and win local laws that make it more difficult for President Trump to pursue his dangerous agenda. And make no mistake about it, America’s cities, counties and towns are places we can and will win.
As part of this local grassroots strategy, the ACLU has identified areas in which municipal opposition to, or lack of cooperation with, the Trump administration will impede objectionable policies the president is pursuing.
ACLU’s “Freedom Cities” plan brings local grassroots activists together and provides a blueprint for local-level campaigns -- in cities and counties -- to defend our communities and block the worst abuses of the Trump administration. These are campaigns that will generate victories in the short term even as we work towards comprehensive protections nationwide in the long term.
“Freedom Cities” is a hugely ambitious campaign. Some of the policies that we will demand may sound legally complex but that’s because the ACLU has come up with a plan to fight the Trump administration lawfully and systematically, not just by defending each individual as they are detained, harassed, or deported.
We’re counting on grassroots volunteers like you to help local elected officials to adopt the ACLU’s model state and local law enforcement policies and rules that will effectively counter or block cooperation with Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-refugee agenda.
The ACLU has challenged the President’s travel ban on refugees and Muslims in the courts and has been deeply critical of other aspects of his immigration agenda, especially the Trump administration’s heavy-handed immigration enforcement in America’s towns and cities.
National and state ACLU staff attorneys and lobbyists are already fighting back against the Trump administration’s attempts to compel or cajole local jurisdictions into directly supporting new federal immigration directives that endanger Muslims, immigrants, refugees and other members of our communities who might be perceived to be in one of those categories.
In addition to litigation and fights on Capitol Hill, the ACLU has expanded its efforts to roll back the Trump administration’s worst abuses by enlisting local grassroots activists like you. Local activists are needed to organize in support of the ACLU’s efforts to convince local officials to resist complying with the Trump administration agenda.
In addition to public demonstrations of support like protesting, we need to go on offense in a way that is strategic and has lasting effect. To achieve this, the ACLU has outlined nine “model” state and local law enforcement policies and rules which -- if adopted -- in “Freedom Cities” throughout the nation, will protect our families and our neighbors’ families from some of the worst abuses of the Trump administration.
This is a strategy that will generate short-term wins even as we embark on the longer term objective of nationwide protection for our communities. The ACLU’s plan to promote and win real protections for the most vulnerable in our communities includes securing the adoption and enforcement of the following local policies and rules:
Defend our friends, families and neighbors from Trump’s mass deportation agenda:
#1) The Judicial Warrant Rule: [County/City/State] officials shall require a judicial warrant prior to detaining an individual or in any manner prolonging the detention of an individual at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
#2) No Facilitation Rule: [County/City/State] officials shall not arrest, detain, or transport an individual solely on the basis of an immigration detainer or other administrative document issued by ICE or CBP, without a judicial warrant.
#3) Defined Access/Interview Rule: Unless acting pursuant to a court order or a legitimate law enforcement purpose that is unrelated to the enforcement of a civil immigration law, no [County/City/State] official shall permit ICE or CBP agents access to [County/City/State] facilities or any person in [County/City/State] custody for investigative interviews or other investigative purposes.
#4) Clear Identification Rule: To the extent ICE or CBP has been granted access to [County/City/State] facilities, individuals with whom ICE or CBP engages will be notified that they are speaking with ICE or CBP, and ICE or CBP agents shall be required to wear duty jackets and make their badges visible at all times while in [County/City/State] facilities.
Protect our friends, families and neighbors’ privacy from the Trump administration:
#5) 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.
#6) Privacy Protection Rule: No [County/City/State] official shall voluntarily release personally identifiable data or information to ICE or CBP regarding an inmate’s custody status, release date or home address, or information that may be used to ascertain an individual’s religion, ethnicity or race, unless for a law enforcement purpose unrelated to the enforcement of a civil immigration law.
#7) Discriminatory Surveillance Prohibition Rule: No [County/City/State] agency or official may engage in any surveillance that is based, to any extent or degree, upon a person or group’s actual or perceived religion, ethnicity, race, national origin, or immigration status, except where doing so is based on a reliable, specific description of a suspect and adheres to appropriate Constitutional standards.
Help our friends, families and neighbors get redress when abuses and mistakes occur:
#8) Redress Rule: Any person who alleges a violation of this policy may file a written complaint for investigation with [oversight entity].
Help ensure our friends, families, and neighbors are protected from discrimination:
#9) 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.
Final Note: The Trump Administration has asserted, falsely, that if localities do not help advance Trump’s mass deportation agenda, they are violating federal law. The following rule, which is the only applicable federal law in this area, would help ensure your city, county or town establishes its clear intent not to violate federal law. While not a necessary addition, this rule may be a useful complement to the above policies.
1373 Rule: Under 8 U.S.C. § 1373 and 8 U.S.C. § 1644, federal law prohibits [County/City/State] officials from imposing limits on maintaining, exchanging, sending, or receiving information regarding citizenship and immigration status with any Federal, State, or local government entity. Nothing in [County/City/State] policies is intended to violate 8 U.S.C. § 1373 and 8 U.S.C. § 1644.
The “Freedom Cities” campaign is a complex and powerful strategy. It requires fighting on multiple fronts with multiple tactics, but it can be scaled and sequenced to accommodate action by groups that are big or small and whether your target is city or county government.
At the heart of this strategy, People Power volunteers will put pressure on elected officials and local law enforcement officials through targeted grassroots action to urge adoption of the “Freedom Cities” nine “model” state and local law enforcement policies.
As a volunteer organizer, you don’t have to understand all the ins and outs of the legal language to advocate for these policies and rules. What you need to know and advocate for is that these are the policies and rules for law enforcement that the ACLU has determined our cities, towns and counties need to protect Muslims, immigrants and refugees from some of the worst abuses of the Trump administration.
Your city or county may already have adopted some of these policies, but only in rare instances has a community adopted all nine in writing. Your role as a People Power activists will be to gather information on where your elected officials and local law enforcement officials stand on each of the nine “model” policies and rules and verify that they are established in writing -- not just in practice.
Please note: As a People Power activist, you don’t represent the ACLU as an organization. You represent your own causes as a concerned citizen and constituent. This is critical to our strength as a movement: As you work on your Freedom Cities campaign, your voices will be stronger as representatives of your community. If anyone is looking for a comment about an ACLU position, you can refer them to us and we can contact the appropriate ACLU representative.
The Freedom Cities campaign launched on March 11th when over 2,000 groups across the country got together to watch the nationwide broadcast of the ACLU’s Resistance Training Livestream, which you can watch here. Since then, many of these groups have continued organizing together to institute Freedom Cities policies in their local communities. But, you don’t need to have hosted, or even attended, a March 11th Action event to get involved. In fact, you don’t have to have ever done anything like this before -- we’ll make sure to get you all the resources you may need to jumpstart your local campaign. Here’s how you can get started:
First, you should see what events are happening in your community already by going to the People Power event map. If there’s an upcoming event happening in your community, you can sign up to attend and get to know other local activists. You may be involved with your local group already, but if not, this map is where you can find out what’s happening near you.
If you see that there’s another group in your area, but you’re interested in starting your own group or advocacy campaign -- go for it! We don’t see multiple groups starting a Freedom Cities campaign in their town as a conflict, but rather, as a sign of the intensity of our campaign.
Next, you should have an organizing meeting to decide the strategy and tactics for your local campaign with other activists in your community. At your first event, you can watch the Resistance Training Livestream together, or use other People Power materials (such as this Action Guide you’re reading) to get started.
We asked people at the March 11th event to immediately set up meetings with their law enforcement officials, but you can also choose another target to focus on. Your city council or county board of commissioners may be the group of elected officials that will need to pass the policies. Your mayor or county sheriff may also be able to issue binding rules. Either way, you should try to be strategic in picking your campaign target. If the county sheriff, for example, has political influence in your community and would prevent your local government from passing the laws or wouldn’t enforce them if they were passed - you may want the sheriff to be your target.
Based on the results of your meeting and further research on your community, decide the campaign target that is best for you.
Lastly, before the conclusion of your meeting, you should assign clear roles and next steps, including:
To set up a meeting, call the local office of your top law enforcement official and say that you are a member of the community who would like to schedule a meeting for a group of local residents. They will ask you how many people you expect will attend the meeting -- if it’s under 10, say the number in your group. If you anticipate that over 10 members of your group will attend, ask how many people they can accommodate in their conference room and go from there.
If the administrative scheduler asks, the topic you want to discuss at this meeting is “Adoption of the ACLU’s model state and local law enforcement policies and rules to support and protect immigrants in our community.”
It may be the case that you can’t meet with the top law enforcement officer. In these instances, ask to meet with the highest level staffer available to meet. Ask for the soonest possible appointment and then invite members of your group. Realize that not everyone from your group will be able to attend, whether it be for scheduling reasons or the size of the meeting space -- the most important thing is for some of you to attend this meeting and that sooner is better than later. A meeting at lunch time if available would be preferable, but you may just have to accept whatever time is offered.
Here’s what attending this meeting will entail: the day of the meeting, gather 20 minutes before your meeting time at a location near the office where the meeting will take place (this could be the building’s lobby). This ensures that you can show up all together and on time. Appoint a chief spokesperson who will be responsible for making a forceful ask during your meeting.
At the meeting, everyone should offer a brief personal introduction (name, neighborhood, and profession, if they wish). Then, the spokesperson will present the ACLU’s nine model policies and rules for local law enforcement and ask where the law enforcement official stands on each one. You should also have an assigned note taker who will be responsible for recording the course of the conversation.
The goal of the meeting is to get the law enforcement official to tell you for each of the nine rules/policies if it is currently in place in your jurisdiction. Get a clear yes or no answer on each and every one of the policies. If the answer is yes, you’ll want to follow up and confirm that this policy is in writing. If the answer is no, ask whether the sheriff, police chief, or local precinct commander would support it (again, yes or no).
Be polite and cordial, but persistent. Your local official may be evasive. Ask as many times as you have to in order to get a clear yes or no, and don’t hesitate to call out evasiveness if you see it.
Don’t get into arguments about the substance of the rules – it’s not your responsibility to explain or defend the nitty gritty details of these policies. Your law enforcement officials can always contact us at email@example.com if they want to talk to a policy or legal expert. It’s your job to make it clear that these policies are what the community wants, and that you will work to ensure they’re adopted.
Thank the official or officials who met with you and let them know that you will be reporting their replies back to the ACLU.
After the meeting, make sure someone in your group is responsible for filling out the report back form about the results of your meeting. You can access that form here.
We’re counting on you to hold another organizing meeting so you can get to work in your community. Ideally this meeting will be after your meeting with local law enforcement officials -- so think about scheduling it two or more weeks out. At this gathering, you’ll go over the results of your meeting with law enforcement officials if you were able to obtain one. If you were not able to meet, call your local county sheriff’s office and inquire about which of the ACLU’s nine model rules and policies for local law enforcement are already in place.
In this meeting, determine the target of your local campaign based on your research into what policies are in place or supported by local law enforcement. For example, if your research or the results of your meeting with local law enforcement shows that only five of nine policies are in place in your jurisdiction, your group may decide to initiate a local campaign to get the other three policies in writing. Make a list of local elected officials you can pressure to adopt the “Freedom Cities” policies and rules that are not already in place in your city or county.
Key pressure points may include:
In this meeting you’ll also choose what tactics your group wants to pursue to urge adoption of the “Freedom Cites” rules and policies. Find below suggested key tactics, though your group may have even more ideas. Big groups may want to start with working groups taking on multiple tactics. Smaller groups may want to choose just one.
You can read more about each of these tactics in our Freedom Cities Tactics Guide.
Our events map at map.peoplepower.org is the hub of our Freedom Cities campaign. Whenever you organize a campaign tactic, you should post it there so that other activists in your community can find out about it and attend.
Many new people are signing up to become a part of the People Power movement every day. We get in touch with these new sign ups almost immediately and drive them to take action by signing up for an event on the People Power map. We also regularly check in with our current People Power activists by text message and email to remind them to check for new events posted on the People Power map. So if you post your event a few days in advance and if it’s consistent with our guidelines, it has the potential of reaching the activists that are being driven to check the map daily. This is a great way to get new people involved in your campaign!
You should also consider taking additional actions to promote your event, such as posting the link to your People Power event page across your social media channels.
Note: Even if your city or county already has all nine “model” policies and rules in place, there’s always more that can be done to advance the Freedom Cities initiative locally. If your research shows that all nine policies are in place in practice, but some aren’t solidified in writing, launch a targeted campaign to get a city ordinance passed with all nine rules and policies in writing. If your local law enforcement has strong pro-immigrant policies in place, you can even consider asking them if they would consider forms of outreach to others (maybe a letter explaining why the rules have been helpful; maybe some form of public statement).
We’re excited to see all of the work you will accomplish in your community!