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Executive-Director

MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The year 2020 was a dark time for our country, our state, and our people. The global pandemic, the killings of Black people by police, and the white supremacist campaign to hijack the Presidential election posed existential threats our democracy. And the threats continue. But these monumental challenges reinforce the importance of ACLU and NYCLU. And the work of the ACLU and NYCLU demonstrates that when we stand up with and for “we the people”, democracy wins.

Despite the dangerous persistence of anti-democratic forces and a rampaging pandemic that is dealing a disproportionate blow to Black, Latinx and indigenous communities, we’ve made groundbreaking progress on issues vital to New Yorkers and laid the foundation for many more successes in the coming years. There is a tremendous amount of work to do to repair the damage to our social fabric, and our institutions and communities deserve nothing less than a renewed, unwavering commitment to build a better tomorrow for everyone. As we move into the post-Trump era, we must remember that white supremacy remains a major systemic threat to everything we stand for. New York has an historic opportunity to lead the country in a shared vision of justice and equality.

Throughout this report, you’ll see firsthand our legal and legislative successes from the past year, meet some of our remarkable partners and staff, and get a taste of our plans for 2021.

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A RESILIENT YEAR IN REVIEW

If ever there were a test of the NYCLU’s resilience, 2020 was it. In the face of an increasingly lawless federal administration and a once-a-century health crisis, we secured legislative and legal victories on a number of fronts. Working with partners old and new, we were able to achieve lasting civil rights and civil liberties protections for New Yorkers in the areas of voting rights, immigration, racial justice, police transparency, student privacy, and more. The past year’s hard-won successes are harbingers of progress yet to come. Some of our most significant victories include:

Lawmakers passed major police accountability reforms:

The Police Statistics and Transparency (STAT) Act requires the collection and reporting of a broad range of demographic data on low-level enforcement as well as in all cases where someone dies while in police custody.

The repeal of Section 50-A of the State’s civil rights law ends the ability of police departments to keep disciplinary records hidden from the public and increases accountability for misconduct. We made public a database of NYPD officer complaint records going back to the 1980s.

The Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act improves the transparency, oversight, and accountability of the NYPD’s use of surveillance technologies.

And Poughkeepsie, Albany, and Kingston passed versions of the Right to Know Act, which requires police officers to identify themselves, state the reason for a stop, and provide information on the complaint process at the end of encounters.

We helped expand voting rights and voter participation for New Yorkers across the state:

We won our case against East Ramapo Central School District, forcing a shift in how school board elections are structured to re-enfranchise Black and Latinx voters and students.

We drafted a bill that amended election law to allow qualified voters to request an absentee ballot by electronic mail and to ensure that all absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day are counted.

We pushed the legislature to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote and to be automatically registered on their 18th birthdays.

And after years of pressure, Governor Cuomo signed automatic voter registration into law, a measure that could lead to a million new registered voters in the state.

We achieved stronger protections for New York students and immigrants:

We pushed for passage of a bill that imposes a temporary moratorium on the use of facial recognition and other biometric identification technology in schools until its impact can be fully studied.

In collaboration with community groups, we succeeded in removing police officers from schools in Rochester.

Our class action lawsuit resulted in a preliminary injunction that halts Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s unofficial, unethical “no-release policy,” leading to the release of many more detained immigrants awaiting court dates.

A federal ruling requires ICE to present detained immigrants before a judge within 10 days of arrest, ending the practice of holding detainees indefinitely in violation of their due process rights.

All of this progress is a result of the sustained, growing support of New Yorkers from every part of the state:

Seek Justice: We filed 31 lawsuits and amicus briefs, won 14 ongoing cases and reviewed 1,164 legal requests for referral or further investigation.

Stand United: We brought together 125,000 members and donors with 9,400 volunteers across New York’s 62 counties.

Take Action: We rallied 310,000 e-activists, nearly 120,000 social media followers, and 9,400 volunteers to get involved through more than 60 opportunities, from protest monitoring and get-out-the-vote phone banking to digital activism around immigrants’ rights, school integration, bail reform, and prison release efforts during COVID.

Strategic Initiatives

Protect & Strengthen Democracy

Safeguarding and Expanding the Vote

Democracy was on the line like never before this past election year, and we brought an all-hands-on-deck approach to safeguarding and expanding the fundamental right to vote for all New Yorkers.

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Protect & Promote Equality

Fighting for the Rights and Safety of Immigrants

New York’s impressive diversity, built on one of the largest immigrant populations in the nation, is key to its identity. Yet with the double assault of the Trump Administration’s relentless anti-immigrant policies and the COVID-19 pandemic, New York immigrants and asylum seekers have never been more at risk.

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Struggle for Justice

Protecting the Right to Assembly and Dissent

New Yorkers’ right to peaceably assemble is constitutionally sacrosanct. Yet this fundamental freedom came under pernicious attack this year during public uprisings in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other unarmed Black Americans by law enforcement.

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Protect Privacy & Autonomy

Keeping Schools Free of Invasive Surveillance

The movement toward facial recognition technology and biometric surveillance is an increasing threat to New Yorkers’ civil rights and liberties.

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Financial Statement

FY 2020: April 1, 2019 – March 31, 2020

The NYCLU and ACLU received an unprecedented number of donations after the 2016 election and the Trump administration’s first Muslim ban. These donations and new memberships represent the hope and trust that supporters have put in us to lead the resistance against efforts to undermine our rights and civil liberties.

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Revenue

  • Membership - $5,024,934
  • Contributions - $13,005,575
  • Foundation Grants - $538,992
  • Legal Fee Awards - $3,583,454
  • All Others - $330,290

Expenses

  • Administration - $1,825,664
  • Development - $1,054,649
  • Legal - $4,284,321
  • Education - $1,001,354
  • Education Reproductive Rights Project - $404,711
  • Policy - $1,911,820
  • Policy Reproductive Rights Project - $367,075
  • Policy (Albany) - $401,548
  • Field - $1,828,343
  • Communications - $1,354,975

our mission

The New York Civil Liberties Union’s mission is to defend and promote the fundamental principles and values embodied in the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, and the New York Constitution, including freedom of speech and religion, and the right to privacy, equality and due process of law for all New Yorkers. In pursuit of these principles, we fight for the dignity of all people, with particular attention to the pervasive and persistent harms of racism.