ACLU Expands Civil Liberties Reach with Opening of First Staffed Chapter Office in Puerto Rico

Affiliate: ACLU of Puerto Rico
February 11, 2000 12:00 am

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SAN JUAN, PR — Seeking new opportunities to promote and defend civil liberties in Puerto Rico, the American Civil Liberties Union is opening its first staffed office to support and expand the work of its national chapter.

At a news conference here today, ACLU national president Nadine Strossen joined chapter president and volunteer attorney Hector Perez in announcing the first ACLU-funded office in the Commonwealth.

The ACLU said its presence in Puerto Rico is important not only to protect the rights of millions of American citizens, but because the Commonwealth’s political status creates unique civil liberties problems.

“I am honored to be present at this momentous occasion,”said ACLU president Strossen. “The ACLU looks forward to expanding its important work here and to ensuring that the citizens of Puerto Rico are afforded every freedom and protection guaranteed to them under the United States Constitution.”

The Puerto Rico national chapter was inaugurated in 1996, although it has been operating informally since 1993, largely through the efforts of chapter president Perez and other volunteers.

During that time, the ACLU national office has worked with the chapter on several important cases involving religious liberty, lesbian and gay rights, HIV/AIDS policy, and First Amendment issues in connection with whether and how the Commonwealth will determine its future status.

“Today is a great day for the ACLU and for Puerto Rico,” said Perez, who has presided over the chapter since its founding. “We hope that the establishment of a permanent chapter office here will help the people of Puerto Rico to participate more fully and meaningfully in our democracy.”

Roger Baldwin, a principal founder of the ACLU, was a frequent visitor to Puerto Rico and advisor to the Commonwealth’s first elected governor, Luis Mu oz Marin. Baldwin played a significant role in drafting the Bill of Rights section of the Puerto Rico Constitution.

ACLU officials said the organization plans to hire and train an executive director by early April. Once the office is staffed, the ACLU national office will provide ongoing support and expertise to the director and Board members on litigation, management, media relations, public education and legislative activities, and will work with the chapter to develop a pool of volunteer attorneys.

As a litigant in virtually every important Supreme Court case involving civil liberties, the ACLU has been central to the development of democratic ideals in America. The ACLU is a nationwide, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and preserving the Bill of Rights for all individuals through litigation, legislation and public education.

Headquartered in New York City, the ACLU has 52 staffed affiliates in major cities, more than 300 chapters nationwide, and a legislative office in Washington, D.C. The ACLU Foundation (ACLUF) is the national tax-deductible, 501(3)(c) arm of the ACLU.

The ACLU and the ACLUF each are governed by a National Board of Directors that includes affiliate representatives. Each affiliate is governed by an independent Board of Directors. The ACLU/ACLUF and its affiliates together raise and spend more than $40 million each year.

Ira Glasser has been Executive Director of the national ACLU since 1978; Nadine Strossen was elected president of the National Board in 1991. Founded in 1920 by Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, Albert DeSilver, Jane Addams, Felix Frankfurter, Helen Keller and Arthur Garfield Hayes, the ACLU celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.

More information on the ACLU and its affiliates can be found online at

To read Spanish version of the release, click here.

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