Talk about a “Trump effect”: Support to groups pledging to watchdog the new administration have gone off the charts since the election.
When the staff of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project showed up to their Pioneer Square offices the day after the election, they knew they would be deluged with anxious immigrants.
What they didn’t expect was people standing there offering them money.
“It was the darkest day, and everybody’s down, but all of a sudden people started coming in wanting to volunteer or make a donation,” says Jorge Barón, director of the 32-year-old legal-aid group. “It was amazing.”
It hasn’t let up. In the past two weeks, the group’s donor list has shot up 50 percent, from about 600 donors through the first 10 months of the year to 925 today. Barón says about two dozen attorneys also offered pro bono help for what is expected to be a surge of deportation cases under a President Trump administration.
Most Read Local Stories
- There are sprouts of hope in downtown Seattle, but they are wilting
- Sound Transit 3: Progress in West Seattle, paralysis in Chinatown International District
- Murder-suicide ended Port Orchard shootout, troopers say
- Enjoy Seattle-area weekend weather before next round of heat
- Which WA counties saw highest voter turnout in 2022 primary election?
“I don’t like to call this a silver lining,” Barón said of the outpouring of help, “because what we’re facing is very dark. But it does give you hope.”
If your cause is immigrants, refugees, civil liberties or women’s reproductive rights, these are some roller-coaster days.
All were threatened, often directly, on the campaign trail by Trump.
But the backlash to that backlash has been off the charts.
In the most concrete “Trump effect” of the election aftermath so far, the American Civil Liberties Union got so many online donations that its server crashed. Nationally, the director said it was “the greatest outpouring of support for the ACLU in our nearly 100-year history.”
The state chapter here got a record 11,000 donations and new memberships in the past two weeks, said Doug Honig, ACLU Washington spokesman. It hasn’t tallied membership figures yet, but Honig says it’s the biggest expansion in the group since Congress passed the post 9/11 Patriot Act, when membership doubled.
How did it happen?
During the campaign, Trump pledged to push the limit on civil liberties, ranging from a Muslim ban or registry, surveillance of mosques, police stop and frisk, legalizing torture and relaxing rules for libel suits against the press. So rather than retreating to strategize, the ACLU announced the morning after the election that if Trump pursues these ideas, he’ll have a full-on legal war on his hands.
“We’re seen as an organization that fights,” Honig said. “We said ‘if you do these things you said during the campaign, then we’ll see you in court, Mr. Trump.’ That resonated strongly with people who want to take a stand for the Bill of Rights.”
Likewise, Barón said his immigrant-rights group has been clear that it is not going to take mass deportation sitting down. It provides lawyers to immigrants facing detention or deportation (something the government ought to do for the poor, as it does in the criminal-justice system.) So the group is often the only advocate for the most powerless people, and the only check and balance that the feds are following their own rules.
This sort of watchdogging is always important, and right now it’s critical.
“Our message has been that we’re going to ramp that up and we’re going to be fighting to make sure they don’t do anything unconstitutional,” Barón said. “It’s gratifying that people aren’t tuning out after the election. They’re recognizing there is a ton of work ahead.”
The aftermath of an election is always a disorienting time. The winners gloat and stride the land like a colossus (remember Seattle, when we did that back when Obama won?) It’s OK, it’s part of the blood sport of American politics.
But no matter how many times people tell you that “your side lost, get over it” — a daily pleasantry in my email in tray — you don’t have to comply. Elections do have consequences, but one of them isn’t that the guy who got 47 percent of the vote ascends to the position of infallible king.
That’s why these little uprisings, coming from the bottom up on behalf of the voiceless, are so powerful. Trump won, but it’s hardly over, folks. It’s just beginning.