Yesterday was the day Donald Trump set as the deadline to decide the fate of America’s Dreamers. But after years on both the campaign trail and in office bragging that he alone could fix the problem, that he "loves these kids" and will "deal with DACA with heart," the fate of over 800,000 Dreamers—and the families, communities and workplaces that rely on them—is still uncertain. Trump has vetoed three bipartisan efforts to fix the problem.
The ACLU is not happy about it. In a new campaign targeted directly at Trump and Congress, debuted over the weekend at a rally outside the Capitol, the 98-year-old civil rights organization is using the President’s promises to remind politicians that they have a duty to the Dreamers, and to majority of Americans who support protecting them from deportation.
"We wanted to shift attention to President Trump to tell him that we are watching you, and 80 percent of the American people are watching you," said Jaweer Brown, ACLU deputy director of online marketing and brand. "We are reminding him of his own words. Now it’s time to show that love and do what you said and make good on your promise."
The campaign sets those promises against images of his face in a wide, digital-focused deployment—"The idea is for people to be seeing the same message on multiple platforms," said Brown. But the most significant rollouts are targeted at DC, since that’s where the people who can make a difference are. There are out-of-home buys on mobile billboards and taxis in the metro area, social targeting through Twitter and Facebook focused on influencers and digital buys on influential sites like Politico. An accompanying spot will air nationally.
It’s a shift in tactics from the ACLU’s ongoing work on DACA, which until now has focused on connecting with everyday citizens more generally and meeting with members of Congress individually. This campaign is all about uniting Americans and Congress behind a broadly popular initiative and clearly identifying what—and who—can fix it.
"We are really looking at a bipartisan targeted buy, not just preaching to the choir," said Brown. "The power of Congress is not connected to the xenophobic policies of wanting a wall, it doesn’t let the President off the hook. It’s reminding our elected officials who they work for—the 80 percent of people who support Dreamers."
It also illustrates a shift in how the ACLU presents itself. As the organization nears its hundredth anniversary, it is emerging from a years-long reanalysis, beginning in 2010, of its brand identity, focused on how to better spread its message and mission to new audiences. "Previously people saw us as a very litigation-forward institution, and while litigation is a huge part of our work, we’re expanding and reinforcing our scope of advocacy and online-to-offline grassroots mobilizing," Brown said.
They debuted a new logo and tagline shortly before the election in 2016, and Nov. 9 unexpectedly became their "coming out" after Trump’s election flooded the organization with millions of dollars in donations. "We came into an understanding of what our audiences understood us as," she said. "People really saw us as being nonpartisan and holding the government accountable and holding laws accountable to people."
Fighting for the Dreamers brings together all three of those responsibilities, making it an ideal cause for the ACLU’s expanded mission beyond just the courts and into both Congress and the grassroots. "It’s the nexus of all of those people coming together," she said. "It’s emblematic of the new ACLU and how we think about issues as they related to the american people—[which is] people in the United States, not just capital-a Americans"