Lawyers for the ACLU are gearing up for what is expected to be a crucial showdown in the US supreme court in 2018 over Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban, as they enter the second year in an epic battle against the president’s populist – and frequently arguably unconstitutional – agenda.
The nation’s oldest and largest civil liberties group has found itself on the frontline of legal resistance to an executive branch that is proving to be historically hostile towards constitutional rights. Since Trump took power on 20 January, the organization has launched 113 legal actions attempting to block his extreme rightwing ambitions.
Those actions included an unprecedented 57 lawsuits brought against the most egregious aspects of the Trump project. Having warned Trump before he entered the White House that he would have to “contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at your every step”, the organization has lived up to its word.
It has successfully challenged the administration in its efforts to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, cut off access to abortion, ban transgender people serving in the military and overturn Obamacare.
“Donald Trump is certainly the most dangerous president we’ve had in my lifetime, and possibly ever,” said David Cole, the ACLU’s national legal director, who leads a central team of 100 lawyers. “But he’s also the most frustrated president in my lifetime, maybe ever.”
Arguably the ACLU’s most significant action was to challenge his initial Muslim ban, issued within his first week in the White House, that barred Syrian refugees and visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the country. The ensuing legal tussle between the ACLU and the president has been drawn out over months and through many iterations and is currently before the US fourth circuit court of appeals where a ruling is expected imminently.
Cole said he was confident that the court would strike down the Muslim travel ban as unconstitutional. Last week in a parallel case initiated by the state of Hawaii, the US ninth circuit court of appeals once again found that Trump had exceeded his authority. But it won’t end there. The Trump administration is almost certain to take one or other of the cases up to the US supreme court, which in turn is likely to give its final verdict by the end of its term in June.