Donald Trump: Year One

Since President Trump was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017, the ACLU has been at the forefront of efforts to push back against the administration’s unconstitutional and un-American threats to civil liberties and civil rights.

Just days after the 2016 election, we made a promise to President-elect Trump and our supporters that we would stand up to him should he try to follow through on any of the unconstitutional proposals he made as a candidate. Since then, the ACLU has doubled down on its commitment, championing important litigation and launching a new grassroots organizing platform.

We have taken 119 legal actions — and counting — since President Trump took his oath of office. Here are just some of our major accomplishments since President Trump’s inauguration one year ago.

Government Oversight and Accountability

4 lawsuits | 1 ethics complaint | 2 calls for investigation | 9 Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests

  • Requested information outlining President Trump’s actual or potential conflicts of interest.
  • Asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI to release all documents relating to President Trump’s decision to remove FBI Director James Comey from office.
  • Asked the DOJ and the FBI to release former FBI Director Comey’s memo describing President Trump’s reported request to Comey to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and ties to Russia.
  • Requested records pertaining to a botched raid in Yemen to better understand the Trump administration’s policies on civilian casualties. 
  • Filed a habeas petition against the Defense Department challenging the indefinite military detention of a U.S. citizen who is allegedly fighting on behalf of the Islamic State group in Syria. The action ordered the department to give him the opportunity to obtain legal assistance through the ACLU.
  • Filed a lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection on behalf of passengers of a domestic Delta Airlines flight who were held and searched by CBP agents — without any legal justification — before being allowed to deplane.

Immigrants' Rights

44 lawsuits | 1 administrative complaint | 31 FOIA requests

19 FOIA requests | 27 lawsuits

  • Challenged the Muslim ban and subsequent iterations through 14 different lawsuits. These include the first suit to halt the original Muslim ban, the first suit to require that a visa holder who had been forcibly removed be returned and readmitted to the United States, and one of the two major cases currently challenging Muslim ban 3.0 at the federal appellate level.
  • Filed 19 requests for information related to the Muslim ban, as well as 13 follow-up lawsuits when the government failed to provide the requested documents.
  • Filed a federal lawsuit (with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the National Immigration Law Center) challenging the State Department’s refusal to process visa applications for winners of the U.S. Diversity Visa Program lottery who hail from the six countries covered by President Trump’s Muslim ban.

3 lawsuits

  • Challenged President Trump’s executive order threatening to withhold federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities through a suit in California.
  • Challenged a Texas law that violates the civil liberties of immigrant communities by requiring local governments to enforce federal immigration practices.
  • Challenged the Tennessee legislature’s efforts to block refugee resettlement.

10 FOIA requests | 3 lawsuits

  • Filed our opposition to Supreme Court review in ADAC v. Brewer — our longstanding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) lawsuit in Arizona that our opponents are using as a vehicle to challenge the legality of the entire DACA program.
  • Filed a lawsuit blocking the Trump administration from revoking high-profile Dreamer Jessica Colotl’s status under DACA. We then returned to court when the government denied her DACA renewal application for a second time, even though she remains eligible for the program.
  • Filed open-records requests in 10 states seeking any communications between state and federal government officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other White House staff, about the DACA program.
  • Filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of young immigrants against several agencies of the Trump administration for the unlawful revocations of their DACA status without notice or opportunity to dispute those revocations. We also secured a court ruling ordering the government to restore DACA status to our lawsuit’s lead plaintiff.


  • Challenged efforts by federal immigration officials to immediately deport more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals — many of whom have been in the U.S. for decades — without their having an opportunity to prove their lives would be in danger if they were returned to Iraq.
  • Challenged the cruel and unconstitutional border detention of a Somali-American family, which was based upon the father’s erroneous placement on a watchlist.
  • Sued the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement seeking the immediate release of a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who was arrested in the hospital after emergency gallbladder surgery and separated from her parents.
  • Filed a class-action lawsuit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, ICE, and Office of Refugee Resettlement for using unsubstantiated claims of gang affiliation to illegally detain teenagers in jail-like facilities in California, winning a class-wide injunction.
  • Filed an administrative complaint with the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of women who are or were pregnant and detained by ICE regarding its failure to implement its own policies on limiting the detention of pregnant women as well as its inhumane detention conditions and inadequate medical care.
  • Challenged the immediate deportation of 92 Somali nationals, many with long-established lives in America, who face likely persecution, torture, or death if returned. The group already had been subjected to a failed ICE deportation attempt, where they were kept shackled in plane seats for 48 hours straight, forced to relieve themselves where they sat.

Voting Rights

1 lawsuit | 6 FOIA requests

  • Sent coordinated requests to state officials and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission seeking information related to the Trump administration’s sham “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.”
  • Filed a federal lawsuit over the lack of transparency by the presidential commission in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which is designed to ensure public accountability of all advisory committees. Our lawsuit pressured the commission into greater transparency.

LGBT Rights

2 lawsuits | 2 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints

  • Intervened in two cases where LGBT people brought EEOC complaints against their employers after they were fired because of their sexual orientation/gender identity.
  • Filed a federal lawsuit seeking to strike down as unconstitutional President Trump’s formal policy to ban transgender people from the U.S. military, secured a preliminary injunction blocking this ban from going into effect, and prevented the administration from staying the injunction.

Women’s Rights and Reproductive Freedom

3 lawsuits | 1 FOIA request

  • Filed a series of emergency lawsuits to stop the Trump administration from blocking Jane Doe, an unaccompanied immigrant minor residing in a government-funded shelter in Texas, from getting an abortion. Ultimately, a federal appeals court ordered the Trump administration to stop blocking access, and Jane was able to have the procedure.  Since then, we have secured appropriate medical care for two additional clients, Jane Roe and Jane Poe.
  • Filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s new rules against the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which authorizes nearly all manner of employers to deny their employees contraceptive coverage if the employer has a religious or moral objection, winning a preliminary injunction blocking the rules.
  • Filed a FOIA request seeking information on the Trump administration’s decision to halt the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s equal pay data collection tool.

Using Religion to Discriminate

1 lawsuit | 4 FOIA requests

  • Filed a lawsuit challenging rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies, which would allow nearly all employers to deny their employees insurance coverage for contraception if the employer has a religious or moral objection.
  • Requested information from four different federal agencies about a then-potential executive order that would sanction religiously motivated discrimination against LGBT people, members of minority faiths, women, and people seeking reproductive health care. After President Trump signed a vaguely worded “religious freedom” executive order, we filed a FOIA lawsuit against the four agencies, none of which have responded to our initial request, to provide clarity on how the Trump administration planned to implement the order.

Racial Justice

1 lawsuit | FOIA request

  • Filed a lawsuit to ensure that people with disabilities and people of color living in Chicago have a voice in police reforms, including the use-of-force practices that disproportionately target them. The ACLU stepped in after the Trump Justice Department declined to impose a consent decree recommended by the Obama Justice Department.
  • Filed a FOIA request with the Center for Media Justice seeking records about the FBI’s surveillance of “Black Identity Extremists,” a term the FBI recently invented that raises the specter of targeting Black people based on their racial identity and First Amendment-protected activities.

Free Speech and Privacy

4 lawsuits| 1 FOIA request

  • Filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia, Metropolitan Police Department officers, and the D.C. police chief for making unconstitutional arrests; using excessive force; denying arrested people food, water, and access to toilets; and doing invasive bodily searches of protesters on Inauguration Day.
  • Filed a FOIA request with the Justice Department to find out more about the circumstances under which the government thinks it can spy on Americans without telling them.
  • Intervened in a lawsuit to block the enforcement of overbroad search warrants that would have impacted thousands of Facebook users as part of the government’s investigation and prosecution of protesters arrested on Inauguration Day.
  • Filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of 11 travelers whose smartphones and laptops were searched without warrants at the U.S. border.
  • Began representing a prominent Chinese-American professor wrongly accused by Justice Department of spying for China.  In addition to the racial profiling aspect, the litigation implicates surveillance under Section 702 and Executive Order 12333 — another authority used by the government to conduct warrantless surveillance of international communications, including those of Americans.

People Power

In March 2017, the ACLU launched People Power, a mobilization platform that would harness the energy of the 1.6 million supporters who were energized following President Trump's inauguration. In less than one year, People Power volunteers have changed the way we engage in grassroots work.

Here are some of the successes that the ACLU and its People Power volunteers have achieved:

  • Over 200,000 people in all 50 states attended in-person events to be trained in the basics of ACLU-style grassroots organizing at the People Power program launch. Over 1 million people have seen the video livestream of the event.

  • ACLU People Power and ACLU state affiliates have partnered to create the Let People Vote campaign to protect and expand voting rights in every state.

  • Grassroots activists from ACLU People Power and the ACLU of Florida helped coordinate a statewide day of action to mobilize volunteers to qualify a ballot measure that would restore the ability to vote for one in every ten Floridians. Twenty-three events were held statewide and over 3,000 signatures were gathered in a single day.

  • ACLU People Power activists across the country trained and canvassed businesses across the country, signing hundreds up to support equality and the ACLU’s plaintiffs in the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case by displaying #OpenToAll signs in their windows. Over 20 events in six states took place, with businesses sharing their support everywhere from Anchorage to Houston. 

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