The work of defending civil liberties goes on

ACLU of Pennsylvania Executive Director Reggie Shuford addresses the crowd at the “Show Love for the Constitution” event. | February 15, 2017. (credit: Ben Bowens)

Dear supporter,

In some ways, our country changed on November 8. The United States elected a leader who, by all measures, is hostile to the basic foundations and principles that we stand for. President Trump and his regime deserve every ounce of pushback we can gather, and the ACLU will be on the front lines of the resistance.

And yet, at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, we have always taken the long view. Issues that are with us today were with us before November 8 and, to one degree or another, would have continued regardless of who was elected, including mass incarceration, police brutality, inequality for gay and transgender people, and efforts to compromise women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

You may have heard that there has been a major increase in giving to the ACLU since the election. While much of that growth has occurred at the national level, in fact, here in Pennsylvania, our membership has tripled. We saw a notable rise in donations after Election Day, but the real surge of giving happened after the weekend of the Muslim Ban. It was in that moment that many Pennsylvanians realized the significance of the threat to our values and to the people we most cherish.

You have put your trust in the ACLU in these challenging times. We are grateful for that trust and take it as a responsibility. Thank you.

The generous outpouring of support we’ve received in recent months has allowed us to think big about our work. It is my intention to add new staff to our existing staff of 22. Our current team has the talent, skills, and persistence to take on the many challenges before us. I also know that we can advance the cause of civil liberties throughout Pennsylvania by bringing even more talented people on board. The times demand it. Your support enables it.

In the months ahead, you’ll hear more about our Smart Justice campaign, our effort to reform, reinvent, and revamp the criminal justice system; our Transgender Public Education and Advocacy Project; the campaign for District Attorney in Philadelphia; the many bills we’re advocating for and against at the state capitol; and more litigation to push back against government excesses wherever they occur.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania is prepared to thwart the Trump administration’s worst instincts as they play out in the commonwealth.

And state and municipal officials aren’t off the hook. We’re working with immigrant communities to monitor federal immigration enforcement tactics while also standing with municipal governments that insist they won’t bend to every demand of ICE. We’re insisting that the commonwealth keeps its commitment to open beds for people who are too ill to stand trial and are being warehoused in local jails. We’re working at the state legislature to defeat efforts to hide the identity of police who seriously injure and kill people and to hide video that captures police brutality from the public. And we are active in ongoing struggles to diminish police presence in schools, to stop rollbacks of women’s reproductive healthcare, and to fight the practice of jailing people for their debts.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania has the infrastructure and the experience to defend civil rights at every turn. Consider some of our recent work:

  • Our legal team successfully freed travelers who were detained at Philadelphia International Airport the weekend of Muslim Ban 1.0, our advocacy team supported the protests at airports in Philly and Pittsburgh, and our communications staff echoed the message to #LetThemIn.
  • Two weeks ago, we settled a lawsuit against the School District of Lancaster for denying enrollment at its regular high school for older refugee students. Older refugee students will now be able to attend the regular high school instead of being segregated at an alternative school.
  • Over the last month, our legislative director has been busy at the state capitol in Harrisburg lobbying against efforts to reinstate mandatory minimum sentencing, which has been suspended for two years due to court rulings.
  • In tandem with allies, our advocacy team has launched the Philadelphia Coalition for a Just District Attorney, an effort to push the candidates for district attorney to commit to reforming the criminal justice system.
  • Last week, our lawyers filed to intervene to defend a school in Berks County that has been sued for affirming its students’ gender identity. We’re representing a transgender student and a youth advocacy organization who would be harmed if the lawsuit successfully overturns the school’s practice.

These five examples are just from the last two months. In fact, four of them happened in the last two weeks.

My favorite playwright, Pittsburgh native August Wilson, said this about gratitude in his play Two Trains Running:  “You walking around here with a ten-gallon bucket. Somebody put a little cupful in and you get mad ’cause it’s empty. You can’t go through life carrying a ten-gallon bucket. Get you a little cup. That’s all you need. Get you a little cup and somebody put a bit in and it’s half-full.”

Well, thanks to you, our ten-gallon bucket runneth over.


Reggie Shuford
Executive Director, ACLU of Pennsylvania

13 thoughts on “The work of defending civil liberties goes on

  1. I love everything here but I wonder what effort is going into redistricting. Is there any litigation being considered. Really important in PA

      • Yes, I agree, this is a huge problem intended to silence progressive voices–and it works very well in doing so. I encourage the ACLU to take a longer look at gerrymandering and find a legal response to the inequality it creates.

  2. Thank you so much for all your hard work in protecting our Human and Constitutional Rights. Organizations such as ACLU is what America is all about.

  3. Thank you for all you are doing. Keep up the hard work. We need the ACLU more than ever.

  4. Thank you ACLU for all your great work. Please keep a close eye on attempts to pass more voter restriction laws. Voter rights & the Pa. Supreme Court and the ACLU are all we have to protect Democracy.

  5. PA lags behind many other (more progressive states) in so many areas. Much appreciation for ACLU’s tireless work to rectify many unconstitutional laws and practices. In particular, the Campaign for Smart Justice, the opposition to HB 741, and debtor’s prisons. Thank you for almost a century of defending those who cannot defend themselves.

  6. Thank you for protecting all of our rights. We need you now more than ever.

  7. Unless we address and correct the problemgerrymandering, we will not have representative government, and our efforts to correct all the other civil liberties infringements will be hampered, perhaps even hopeless. Is ACLU partnering with Fair Districts PA to change the PA constitution so our voting districts are fair and representative? If not, we should be.
    I live in Congressional district 7, the nation’s poster child for gerryma dered voting districts.

  8. I and others have repeatedly asked the ACLU to take up the cause of people pilloried on the Sex Offender Registry. Hundreds of thousands of lives are being ruined forever by the inordinate amount of time people are being kept on the registry. Now the U.S. is trying to enforce an International Megan’s Law and please “identifying markers” in offenders’ passports, including issuing a 1-year-only passport.

    We’ve asked for help from both the PA and national ACLU, but have always been effectively told to “help ourselves.,” yet the ACLU has no issue with continuing to send all of us emails begging for donations. There is a gross violation of human rights of citizens going on here, but the ACLU seems more concerned with transgender persons and undocumented aliens.

    This is a true shame, and sort of proves to me that the ACLU is only interested in pursuing issues it deems to be popular and which will bring it positive notoriety.

  9. Thank you so much for fighting against the GOP and #DonTheCon ‘s agenda of exclusion, inequality, open bigotry and the punishment of women, minorities, the disadvantaged and/or victimized. We cannot fight tyranny without you, and I will continue to support the ACLU!

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