This week, the entire ACLU of ME staff is in Las Vegas at the ACLU’s national staff conference. Experts within and outside the ACLU have gathered to share their expertise on the changing political landscape.
I attended a two-day conference on immigration. With as many as 20 anti-immigrant bills in Maine’s state legislature this year, awareness of the national landscape is more important than ever. The good news is Maine is not alone in its impending effort. The bad news is an anti-immigrant movement is sweeping the nation, and defending civil liberties will be tougher than ever. ACLU Washington Legislative Office staffer Joanne Lin shared the known threats to civil liberties on the national front: expanding ICE ACCESS programs that empower local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law, efforts that have been shown to result in racial profiling and less safe communities; attacks on constitutional citizenship that would deny citizenship to any child whose parent is not a citizen, legal alien or member of the armed services; and mandatory E-Verify, an error-ridden government workforce database that has resulted in immigrants and citizens alike losing or being denied jobs. With Congressmen like Lamar Smith (R – TX) chairing the House Judiciary Committee, we can be sure there will be anti-civil liberties efforts on the immigration front in Congress this year.
Islamaphobia is on the rise as well. As chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Pete King (R – NY) has promised to hold hearings to investigate the radicalization of Islam in America. Such hearings bring us back to McCarthy era witch hunts. At the ACLU staff conference, President of the National Conference on Civil and Human Rights and former ACLU staff attorney Wade Henderson called on the ACLU to remain strong in its principled approach to defending civil liberties. Rest assured that we will remain at the forefront of these efforts. Stay tuned to the ACLU of ME blog for more updates from the staff conference in Las Vegas.