This article by Derek Carson originally appeared Feb. 22 in the Bennington Banner.
BENNINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union is active in every state in the U.S., and Vermont is no exception. On Wednesday evening Vermont ACLU Executive Director James Lyall stopped by the Bennington Free Library to talk about some of the initiatives the group is involved with throughout the state.
Lyall became the state’s 12th ACLU director when he took the reins from Allen Gilbert in 2016. He started his career advocating for immigrant children who were facing deportation in California, then from 2011 to 2016 he was a staff attorney for the ACLU of Arizona. While in Arizona he was part of the opening of the first ACLU satellite office in Tucson, in order to investigate and litigate civil rights issues related to the U.S.-Mexico border.
“(I came) to Arizona at the height of Sheriff (Joe) Arpaio’s reign. SB 1070, the ‘Show Me Your Papers,’ law had just been passed, which was at the time the first and worst anti-immigrant state law in the nation,” he said Wednesday night. “I saw firsthand what the ACLU could do. We beat Sheriff Arpaio, we got an injunction against his office and we drove him out of office. We succeeded in passing multiple local ordinances that really softened the blow of SB 1070, including in Tucson one of the best sanctuary city policies in the country. We did that through strategic litigation, policy advocacy, education, and community organizing, and saw what the ACLU can do when it brings all of those together and when we mobilize the community in support of an initiative.”
Lyall said that what he described as the Trump administration’s attack on immigrants nationally has also played out in Vermont. He said that his organization works with Migrant Justice, who “have gotten a number of groundbreaking laws passed in the state, including drivers licenses for immigrants, including the sanctuary policy that is still being refined as we speak, which is good policy and is about to be statewide, binding law on all law enforcement agencies. That’s been the work we’ve done with Migrant Justice as partners.”
Read full article at the Bennington Banner.
(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)