As the crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus continues to grow, we know that fear, uncertainty and the threat of loss are impacting so many of us. We at the ACLU of Louisiana are committed to being a resource for all Louisianans during this difficult time. As always, we promise to defend the civil rights and liberties of all Louisianans, especially the rights of the condemned, disfavored and vulnerable.
In response to the pandemic, we called for the immediate release of asylum seekers and anyone being held in jail because they cannot afford bail, as well as expedited parole hearings for elderly people in prison. We have also sounded the alarm about measures contained in Governor John Bel Edwards’ executive order that would suspend legal deadlines for district attorneys to file charges against people who are held in jail.
Throughout, we will be actively monitoring attempts to unnecessarily infringe on civil liberties and working around the clock to keep our community safe and free during this challenging situation.
Here you will find information about the ACLU’s response to COVID-19, including news updates, blog posts, guidelines, and letters to public officials—as well as other resources. Above all, the ACLU of Louisiana believes:
- Any coronavirus response should be grounded in science and public health, and not be politicized
- Any response plan must protect the health, safety, and civil liberties of all
- State leaders should encourage voluntary compliance with self-isolation measures as much as possible
- If leaders want to be effective in limiting the transmission of coronavirus, they will need to pay particular attention to the most vulnerable people in our society
People in jail are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses. State and local law enforcement including the attorney general, district attorneys, and local police should reduce the number of people in state custody in order to prevent the virus from entering a prison or jail.
No one should be afraid to seek medical care for fear of immigration enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stated that it does not conduct enforcement operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances. In addition, ICE should halt immigration detentions to limit the spread of the virus in jails and detentions centers and to limit the hardships that the virus causes for immigrant communities. The ACLU of Louisiana has also called for immediate humanitarian parole for detained asylum-seekers and refugees.
In order to encourage all people to cooperate with health officials and public health guidelines, government and employers must ensure that people are protected from job loss and economic hardship. Government and employers must provide social and economic protection including strong paid family and medical leave policies and income support.