Micah Kubic has the deliberate, passionate cadence of a southern preacher.
“Our job today is to show the world, to tell them, rub your eyes. Don’t be adjusted to the deficiencies that we are seeing all over this country,” Kubic told a group gathered for an ACLU meeting at Stetson University in downtown Tampa on Saturday. “ In so many ways, we are adjusting to deficiencies and we can not let that happen in these very difficult, very challenging, very onerous times.”
Kubic is the new executive director of ACLU of Florida. He took up his new post in Florida in January after moving from Kansas where he was the chief officer of the ACLU there.
He told WUSF he wants to continue the group's work in voter registration, reproductive rights, prison reform and immigration issues.
In Tampa, ACLU lawyers say immigration cases are a top concern, including unlawful detentions, because of the regions large immigrant population.
“I think one of the biggest challenges is that folks sometimes fixate on these issues as partisan ones, when they really are not,” Kubic said. “They are really about the values that we share as Americans, the values that we share in the Constitution.”
Kubic said the legal organization will also work to protect Amendment 4. Florida residents voted to restore voting rights to ex-felons in November. The ACLU of Florida partnered with other groups to campaign for the amendment's passage.
Florida Rights Restoration Coalition President Desmond Meade was another crucial part of the amendment's approval. He received the Tampa Chapter of the ACLU of Florida’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on the issue.
“There are gonna be generations after us that’s gonna look Nov. 6 of 2018 and thank God that there was an ACLU in Florida,” Meade said upon accepting his award.
Meade works with incarcerated, ex-felons and the homeless. He said a key part of prison reform is not just addressing issues with inmates, but is also addressing what happens when they are released.
Members are concerned about the formerly incarcerated getting jobs, he said, “being able to get occupational licenses so they can earn a liveable wage."
He added, “[We’re are] talking about the implementation of Amendment 4, making sure that there’s a very clear pathway that folks, once they complete their sentence are able to register to vote and vote.”
The Tampa chapter of the Florida organization also gave former state Rep. David Richardson the First Amendment Award for his work as a lawmaker to improve conditions at state prisons and juvenile detention centers.
“We’ve really got to get to a point, in not just the state but this country to recognize that folks are going to be coming out of prison and it’s in our best interest to prepare them for life on the outside,” Richardson said.
That takes funding for programming, he said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed $2.7 billion go to fund the Department of Corrections, with much of that money going to inmate health care costs.