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Freedom Cities FAQ

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Freedom Cities Campaign in General

What is the Freedom Cities initiative and how it will be an effective strategy for resisting Trump’s agenda?

What if immigration isn’t the biggest concern in my community with regard to law enforcement? What if we want to work on a different issue entirely?

What if my guests are all from different towns? Which law enforcement official do we reach out to?

What’s the difference between Sanctuary Cities and Freedom Cities?

Should nearby groups be requesting multiple meetings with the same law enforcement official? How can we coordinate with nearby groups?

Freedom Cities Campaign Tactics

My area is already a sanctuary city/state.

I happen to know that our local law enforcement already supports all of these things. Is it still worth scheduling this meeting?

This seems confrontational. I don’t want to be making enemies with our local law enforcement.

I live in a big city - who should I contact to meet local law enforcement?

I live in a big city - won’t this be a mess if there are numerous neighborhood groups requesting the same meeting with local law enforcement? Shouldn’t we be coordinating with other teams?

There are already local immigration efforts underway in my community - what’s our role here?

This seems like a lot of work!

Why are we meeting with law enforcement when we’re advocating for municipal legislation? Shouldn’t we be meeting with city councils, mayors, etc.?

What if we don’t want to contact our law enforcement (because they don’t have the decision-making power here)?

Freedom Cities Campaign Policy

Can we get examples, or non-legal explanations of each of the Freedom Cities rules and policies for local law enforcement?

Can I get more specifics on Rule 1373, does 1373 make all the rest illegal?

Freedom Cities Campaign in General 

What is the Freedom Cities initiative and how it will be an effective strategy for resisting Trump’s agenda?

The topline objective of the Freedom Cities effort, which will be rolled out over time, is to propose, support, and secure local laws that make it more difficult for President Trump to pursue and accomplish his un-American agenda, while working to ensure that strong local laws that are more consistent with our values spread nationwide.

The first Freedom Cities step will be a call for people to ensure their cities are welcoming of all immigrants. The roadmap for this step is similar to the “sanctuary cities” concept, but it includes certain elements such as bias-free policing and prohibitions on surveillance that are beyond the traditional “sanctuary cities” frame.

This initial push on immigration is merely a starting point for more local organizing efforts on other issues down the road, like equal rights, police reform, etc. Our basic theory is that cities and towns are best positioned to be the most effective resistance to Trump and his assault on our Constitution and values -- and down the line the term “Freedom Cities” will take on more meaning as we take on more issues.

What if immigration isn’t the biggest concern in my community with regard to law enforcement? What if we want to work on a different issue entirely?

The Freedom Cities campaign is something that the ACLU has put together to help local communities resist Trump’s unconstitutional agenda. Immigration isn’t the only issue it will address, but it’s something that is critically important right now and presents an area where we know we can effectively block the way the Trump administration conducts its business.

We want People Power to be a tool for grassroots action, period. So if you want to hold a local protest or event on another ACLU issue like equal rights or police reform, we encourage you to use PeoplePower.org to put an event on the map so you can meet and organize with others.

What if my guests are all from different towns? Which law enforcement official do we reach out to?

We want to leave that up to you and your fellow volunteers to decide. You might decide it’s best to reach the law enforcement level that encompasses all of you - so if you’re all from different towns but live in the same county, you’d reach out to your county sheriff. There’s no expectation that because you encompass multiple jurisdictions you need to reach out to multiple law enforcement officials. But if you have the capacity to reach out to multiple towns go for it!

What’s the difference between Sanctuary Cities and Freedom Cities?

 

The roadmap for “Freedom Cities” includes advocating for many protections associated with the “sanctuary cities” concept, but it also includes issues such as bias-free policing and prohibitions on surveillance that go beyond the traditional “sanctuary cities” frame. Plus, going forward, the “Freedom Cities” campaign will tackle lots of other issues where it is essential that the Trump agenda not go unchallenged.

As for sanctuary cities, there is no clear definition of that. It seems to mean different things in different places. With our model ordinances, we have tried to not only 1) add definition to what an immigrant friendly city should be but also 2) create something that we can build on. Future “Freedom Cities” campaigns could include many other kinds of ordinances (LGBT, Muslim, Jewish, women, Native American, etc) that help resist the Trump agenda.

Your city or county may already have adopted some of the Freedom Cities’ immigrant protection policies, but only in rare instances has a community adopted all nine. If your community has done so, contact us and we may propose additional ideas or enlist you to help nearby communities.

Should nearby groups be requesting multiple meetings with the same law enforcement official? How can we coordinate with nearby groups?

Our movement is stronger in numbers! The more community members requesting time to meet with law enforcement, the better. In order to get to work right away, you’ll likely find that it’s easiest to schedule a meeting with just your own group. We don’t see multiple groups requesting multiple meetings with law enforcement as a conflict, but rather as a sign of the intensity of our campaign.

We think it's very useful for city officials to hear many requests for a meeting because that's what will cause them to treat it more seriously. You’re likely to get either a more senior person to meet with you, a bigger space, or a public forum. Most likely, the city official’s office will say to each caller: we’re going to set up a meeting and will let you all know the date/time/location. Once you get time date and location for a meeting, we can share it with the nearby areas and put it on map.peoplepower.org so that others are aware.

Freedom Cities Campaign Tactics

My area is already a sanctuary city/state.

The roadmap for “Freedom Cities” includes advocating for many protections associated with the “sanctuary cities” concept, but it also includes issues such as bias-free policing and prohibitions on surveillance that go beyond the traditional “sanctuary cities” frame. Plus, going forward, the “Freedom Cities” campaign will tackle lots of other issues where it is essential that the Trump agenda not go unchallenged.

Your city or county may already have adopted some of the Freedom Cities’ immigrant protection policies, but only in rare instances has a community adopted all nine. If your community has done so, contact us and we may propose additional ideas or enlist you to help nearby communities.

I happen to know that our local law enforcement already supports all of these things. Is it still worth scheduling this meeting?

Yes, you should look at this meeting as an opportunity for community engagement and relationship building - and you’ll find that many law enforcement officers have staff that are dedicated to community outreach so this is exactly what they’re set-up to accommodate.

If you know that your local sheriff/police chief already supports these policies, then this meeting will be a way to show them that the community stands behind them in these great, immigrant-friendly policies that they’ve put in place and may encourage them to be more outspoken in their pro-immigrant stance.

One idea that you might consider with your local law enforcement leader would be to ask him/her 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). Law enforcement leaders often like to hear from their counterparts.

This seems confrontational. I don’t want to be making enemies with our local law enforcement.

This initial meeting with law enforcement is an information-gathering exercise, where you’ll ask questions and present specific, detailed pro-immigrant law enforcement policies. It is meant to be an educational experience, and not confrontational at all.

 

You’ll be asking law enforcement: (1) do you currently have an immigrant-friendly policy in place? and (2) if not, will you support the adoption of a policy that includes the elements in our model rules list? The responses that you receive, good or bad, will help guide our future efforts.

And you shouldn’t feel like you’re bothering them or creating a problem - it’s part of their role to engage with their community and have a dialogue with it, and that’s exactly what this meeting is about.

I live in a big city - who should I contact to meet local law enforcement?

While in smaller jurisdictions, the person to contact is usually your county sheriff or your police chief, in a big city, your best option to obtain a meeting may be approaching your local precinct’s commanding officer.

It may be the case that you can’t meet with the top law enforcement officer (though you should try!). In these instances, ask to meet with the highest level staffer available to meet.

I live in a big city - won’t this be a mess if there are numerous neighborhood groups requesting the same meeting with local law enforcement? Shouldn’t we be coordinating with other teams?

In order to get to work right away, you’ll likely find that it’s easiest to schedule a meeting with just your own group. We don’t see multiple groups requesting multiple meetings with law enforcement as a conflict, but rather as a sign of the intensity of our campaign. Where multiple meet requests do occur, the police department may very well try to combine the meetings. In cases where it makes sense to coordinate with nearby groups, we encourage you to use the Freedom Cities Slack to share tactics and events with other group leads in the area.

There are already pro-immigration efforts underway in my community - what’s our role in this work?

We absolutely want to collaborate with any and all groups that are already working hard to make our communities welcoming to immigrants. Our role in those cases is to do whatever we can to give those efforts even more people power.

This seems like a lot of work!

It’s a lot of information for sure! But as a host, all you need to do is stick to the agenda and focus on the action items: scheduling a meeting with your law enforcement, and planning your next organizing meeting. Remember, nobody is expecting you to know all the ins and outs of the Freedom City campaign - that’s the great thing about working with a team, you can ask people to take on different responsibilities, including asking someone else to host the next meeting.

You can always reference the Freedom Cities Action Guide for tips and guidelines on next steps for your campaign.

Why are we meeting with law enforcement when we’re advocating for municipal legislation? Shouldn’t we be meeting with city councils, mayors, etc.?

First, in many cases, the law enforcement leader, e.g. a County Sheriff, is the final decision maker on these issues. But, even where that is not true, e.g. a city police chief who takes direction from the mayor, the law enforcement leader is typically the person who has to implement the rules and best understands them. So, it is helpful to get the law enforcement perspective first. The mayor or city council will want to know what law enforcement thinks (even where they disagree). It is helpful for the People Power team to be aware as well. It also adds advocacy credibility down the line to say you’ve met with the police.

What if we don’t want to contact our law enforcement (because they don’t have the decision-making power here)?

The problem with a national call to action like we have is that it can be difficult to localize it across the board. We are thrilled that groups all across the country are organizing meetings with local law enforcement in their communities. But the inherent differences in each community makes it tough for us to advise each group at the local level.

While we've provided a roadmap, this is, at its heart, a grassroots campaign. We trust those of you on the ground to have the best instinct for what route works best in your community.

You might reach out to other great local leaders like yourself, to see what's working for them in their communities. The best way to do that is to join our Freedom Cities Slack Channel. (Slack is an instant messaging tool that allows people to collaborate online.)

In certain cases, it may be that we don’t need to talk to law enforcement, you may instead reach out to city councillors, a state legislator, the mayor, or the school board. Law enforcement is just a natural place to begin a conversation about immigration enforcement.

Freedom Cities Campaign Policy

Can we get examples, or non-legal explanations of each of the Freedom Cities rules and policies for local law enforcement?

Here is a document with the non-legal descriptions of each policy: http://bit.ly/FreedomCities. You can also read them below:

Rule #1: Is meant to stop local police and sheriffs from volunteering to do immigration detention without a judge’s approval. Immigration agents routinely ask police and sheriffs to hold people in jail before they have the legal authority to do so. Immigration agents have even asked local police to hold U.S. citizens for immigration purposes, a clear violation of their rights. The ACLU has represented many people who were illegally arrested this way, and it has cost local governments tens of thousands of dollars in court-ordered penalties. By requiring a warrant, we are protecting everyone’s Constitutional rights.

Rule #2: Is meant to help ensure that local police do not spend limited local dollars and staff time carrying out federal immigration work, beyond what is legally required. It also protects against violations of the Fourth Amendment and racial profiling.

Rule #3: Is meant to stop immigration agents from interfering in local public safety mission. When immigration agents can come to a local facility and do whatever they want, it blurs the line between local police and federal immigration agents, and local communities lose trust in the local police, which harms public safety.

Rule #4: Is meant to ensure ICE officers clearly identify themselves. Sometimes people think they are talking to a public defender – instead, they find out they are talking to an immigration agent. Everyone has the right to remain silent or seek an attorney. Local law enforcement agencies should not assist immigration agents in deceiving immigrants and deprive them of their ability to effectively use their rights.

Rule #5: Is meant to promote good government, and smart policing. Many local police departments have commonsense policies to protect victims and witnesses that ensure they only ask about immigration status if it’s relevant to a state or local crime. This rule keeps our whole community safe by drawing a clear line between local priorities and interference from immigration agencies.

Rule #6: Is meant to safeguard privacy. ICE officers often call local police and request personal information about people (like home addresses). People deserve to have their private information protected to the maximum extent permitted by law. The rule also protects against targeting people in discriminatory ways - for example, because they are Muslim or Latino.

Rule #7: Is meant to prevent the discriminatory targeting of groups, including using false or weak justifications for doing so. For instance, it would prevent local involvement in the surveillance of a construction worksite for immigration reasons, solely because people of Latino background work there in large numbers. It would prevent the general surveillance of mosques.

Rule #8: Is meant to ensure that every city, town or county has a complaint and redress process for people who have been harmed because of failures to comply with these protections. It would allow your city, county, town to make clear that rules are not just on paper, and something will be done if they are broken.

Rule #9: Is meant to promote fair policing, and covers areas including, but not limited to immigration. It is a standard increasingly adopted by law enforcement agencies committed to constitutional and equitable policing. It is a safeguard against biased policing, and it requires that there be specific, non-discriminatory reasons to take police action against a person.

1373 Rule: Is optional, but meant to signal in a clear way that, while your city, county, or town wants to be immigrant-friendly and a “Freedom City,” it does not want to violate federal law. Your local leaders can point to this rule to show that your policies are fully consistent with federal law. That would be true even without this rule, but this rule reiterates it. It is like driving 40 mph on a street with a 50 mph speed limit, yet nevertheless calling the police and telling them that you are driving 10 mph less than the limit.

Can I get more specifics on Rule 1373? Does 1373 make all the rest illegal?

 

This area of the law is a little complex and nuanced. We believe that we have provided a well-considered set of rules that is fully consistent with federal law, including 8 U.S.C 1373. These types of rules are already in place in many states, cities and towns around the country.

 

As an example, 8 U.S.C. 1373 (the law we cite at the end) only requires the maintaining, exchanging, sharing, receiving of information regarding citizenship and immigration status. It is a fairly narrow law.

 

Thus, other information, especially private information like “home address” and “custody status” and “release date” can, and we believe, should remain private as that is not “citizenship and immigration status” information.

For instance, the Illinois Governor has issued a similar rule under his Executive Order 2 from 2015: https://www.illinois.gov/Government/ExecOrders/Pages/2015_2.aspx. That Executive Order says that “No law enforcement agency under the jurisdiction of the State of Illinois . . . , [may] “communicate an individual’s release information or contact information.” Our Rule #6 is very similar.

 

Our Rule #5 is also permissible under federal law. Federal law does not require that local law enforcement collect or inquire about immigration information (that would be a larger commitment than “sharing” it with the federal government – if you have it already – or receiving it from the federal government – if the federal government sends it to you). Washington DC has adopted a rule similar to our Rule #5, which states that public safety agencies “shall not inquire about a person’s immigration status . . . for the purpose of initiating civil enforcement of immigration proceedings that have no nexus to a criminal investigation.” (http://dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/NoticeHome.aspx?NoticeID=1784041)