Defending Civil Liberties in the Age of Trump

Jan 5, 2017

Joseph Cohen, leader of the ACLU of West Virginia
Credit Charleston Gazette-Mail

Since Donald Trump’s election, membership in the ACLU of West Virginia has gone up 30 percent, according to executive director Joseph Cohen.

On The Front Porch podcast, Cohen discussed how his organization is preparing for President Trump in three areas:

1. Immigration. Cohen says the ACLU would oppose any large-scale, mass deportation.

“I just don’t see any way it would be possible to do that without engaging in unlawful profiling, violations of equal protection, violations of due process,” he said.

2. Muslims. Trump’s campaign promise of “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” seems to have morphed into a promise to limit immigration from certain countries, Cohen said.

Even an effort to prevent foreign nationals from predominantly Muslim countries may be unconstitutional, he said.

“To the extent these countries are predominantly Muslim, I think courts would really look at this and say, national origin is just a pretext. That the real reason … they’re trying to ban people is based on religion,” he said.

3. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech. “The ACLU holds this very special place in our society, in that we protect people’s freedom of speech and freedom of dissent,” Cohen said.

He also discusses the ACLU’s plans at the state level, including an effort to prevent juveniles from going to custody, and introducing restorative justice to hate crime victims and offenders.

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