The spread of COVID-19 is a crisis, and it will take many of us working together to respond appropriately, effectively, and fairly. The ACLU of Massachusetts will be monitoring the situation to ensure a response that is scientifically justified and no more intrusive upon civil liberties than absolutely necessary and protects the populations most vulnerable to harm, including working people, immigrants, and those involved in the criminal legal system.
The ACLU understands that emergencies require extraordinary measures if the efforts lean first and foremost on public education and voluntary compliance and are justified by public health data and best practices. Accordingly, any enforcement should be to facilitate long-term voluntary compliance rather than to punish non-compliance. To that end, municipal officials should address violations of physical distancing rules—especially first-time violations—by explaining the rules and providing members of the community with accurate information about the health risks of violating them. Officials should stop short of issuing citations for non-compliance; saddling people with fines will only exacerbate existing inequities and make it even harder for people to recover after the pandemic subsides.
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 Massachusetts 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.
Nobody 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 economically insecure
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.
We will update this page as the situation develops. See below for more resources.