By Ronald Newman
Jose Ivan Parga is a member of a multi-status, Mexican-immigrant family in Minnesota. Even though he is a citizen, every day he witnesses the fear and uncertainty that his extended family has because of their immigration status. For decades they have worked, worshiped, and raised families in the state. Yet at any moment, immigration agents could — and have — detained a member of his family without warning or cause, despite their deep roots in the community. With no clear path to citizenship, Jose Ivan’s family is forced to live in the shadows of a broken immigration system.
Jamie Miller is a survivor of sexual assault. As a teen, she was assaulted at a party by a boy from another school who didn’t even know her name. Jamie became pregnant and decided to have an abortion. Since that time, she has fought for women in her home state of West Virginia to have that same option. She wants to make sure they have access to abortion and reproductive care, regardless of where they live or how much money they make.
These are the people we fight hard for every day. And it’s these voices that we want to elevate in the 2020 presidential race. Today we’re launching our Rights for All campaign to ensure people like Jose and Jaime — and all the rest of us — have a say in what our next president prioritizes.
The next president of the United States must be committed to protecting and advancing the civil rights guaranteed to all of us in the Constitution. It’s up to us to ensure those who are running make their positions clear and hold them accountable. The best way to do this is to make sure candidates are hearing from voters who care about these issues.
We won’t be endorsing or supporting individual candidates, but we will be asking them pressing questions about civil liberties and civil rights — the questions that our supporters and activists want each candidate to be able to answer. We’re empowering volunteers, especially in the states with early primaries and caucuses like New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada, to meet the candidates on the trail and record their answers on what they will do about criminal justice reform, access to voting, reproductive freedom, and immigrant justice. We’ll then share candidates’ answers on the newly launched Rights for All website and social media for everyone to hear.
Volunteers who don’t have a chance to meet with candidates face-to-face will engage with them online by asking impactful questions on their social media feeds. We’ve also asked all our supporters to take the Rights For All pledge, promising to vote for a president that will uphold these rights.
Already, ACLU volunteers in New Hampshire have asked Elizabeth Warren and Bill Weld about the mass incarceration crisis in communities of color, Pete Buttigieg about reproductive healthcare access, and Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris about voting rights. To continue and expand this work, we’ve hired 10 organizers across the early states to support our volunteers.
Keeping with our nonpartisan principles, we’ll question presidential candidates on both — and neither — side of the aisle, including, if given the opportunity, President Trump.
It’s not enough for us to ask them about these issues. We want candidates to adopt bold policies that advance civil liberties. So we’ve drafted our own policy platform on these key issues. When we cast our ballots, we want to know that they have embraced specific policies that advance Rights for All.
We are asking candidates to commit, at minimum, to:
- Reproductive Freedom: Ensure that all people, regardless of where they live or how much they make, can access abortion care, including by lifting bans on insurance coverage of abortion
- Voting Rights: Ensure every American of age can vote, including those currently incarcerated
- Criminal Justice Reform: Cut incarceration by 50 percent in federal prisons, and everywhere in the country
- Immigrant Justice: Overhaul our immigration system by creating new paths to citizenship and dismantling the inhumane and unfair immigration and border enforcement regime
In addition to pushing the candidates to embrace these policies, we will be following up with questionnaires and developing a comparison tool that will allow voters to compare and contrast candidates on these issues. We also plan to host a national candidate forum further putting civil liberties issues in the spotlight.
As primaries and caucuses approach, we will stay true to our nonpartisan values by mobilizing all voters, regardless of party, to cast a ballot, and we will continue this work through the general election.
Between now and November 2020, the ACLU will spend $28-30 million engaging candidates and voters in our Rights for All effort, as well other down-ballot candidate races and ballot initiatives where civil liberties and civil rights are on the line.
All this work will hopefully mean fewer stories like those of Jose and Jaime. Our goal is to move candidates to take stronger positions on these issues and ensure the next president supports rights for all of us – but we need the help of everyone to make sure they hear from voters across the country. Join us at www.rightsforall.us.
Ronald Newman is the National Political Director of the ACLU