Anthony Romero

The Executive Director of the ACLU, Anthony Romero, discusses immigration abuse, voter suppression, women’s access to abortion and healthcare, and more. November 6, 2017. Congregation Emanu El, Houston, Texas.

SHORT. The Trump administration unleashed a golden age of citizen activism, with ACLU membership quadrupling in the first six months. Young people turned out, average member age down by more than half. (2:23)

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Presentation part 1. ACLU founded almost 100 years ago in similar era as a Trump administration, a moment of massive unrest, fired up xenophobia, when thousands were deported without due process. (12:26)

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Presentation part 2. Immigration abuse. Dog-whistle politics, "America first" harkens back to when it was "white, male Christian first." (13:50)

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Presentation part 3. Voter suppression of minorities. Access to legal abortion, birth control, and health care. Zeal of Trump administration using full power of federal government to deny. (22:50)

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SHORT. Not just defense, offense. Reasons for optimism. Women’s vote ratified at height of Palmer raids on immigrants. Modern civil rights movement born during Red Scare. LGBT rights emerged during the war on terror. (6:31)


The leader of the nation’s premiere defender of civil liberties, Anthony Romero has served as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for 16 years. He is the first Latino and openly gay person to serve in this position. Time magazine named Romero among the 25 most influential Hispanics in America. He has led the most successful growth in ACLU history, enabling him to expand the ACLU’s national litigation, lobbying, and public education efforts. Since the Trump election, membership has more than quadrupled to 1.6 million. Born in New York City, Romero was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs. He is co-author of In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror (2007). Romero took the helm of the ACLU just seven days before the September 11, 2001, attacks. Anticipating the impending assault on civil liberties in the name of protecting national security, Romero quickly launched the Keep America Safe and Free campaign to protect basic freedoms. He created the ACLU’s National Security Project, which achieved legal victories on the Patriot Act, uncovering thousands of pages of documents detailing the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, and filing the first successful legal challenge to the Bush administration’s illegal NSA spying program. During the Obama administration, the ACLU continued its litigation on NSA surveillance and launched litigation and advocacy around the U.S. drone program. Prior to Trump’s election, the ACLU released a legal analysis warning that Trump’s proposals would amount to a “one-man constitutional crisis.” According to ACLU materials, Anthony Romero oversaw the creation of the ACLU’s first national grassroots mobilization effort. People Power was launched in March 2017 through town hall meetings with more than 2,000 in-person attendees and was live-streamed to more than 2,300 house parties, watched by more than 200,000 people in all 50 states. The purpose was to galvanize grassroots power to new levels of activism to fight an unconstitutional federal crackdown on sanctuary cities as well as seed mobilizers at town halls and state legislatures to hold public officials more accountable.

Thanks to videographer: Ruben Duran

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