When an emergency such as the COVID-19 outbreak occurs, the power of government may need to be brought to bear in more intrusive and unilateral ways than is reasonable during nonemergency times. Yet we must remain watchful that the balance does not shift too far.
Page updated on May 7, 2020
At this unprecedented moment in our history, the ground can feel like it’s shifting nearly every minute. Our nation is facing a serious public health crisis, and it’s important that we do what we can to take care of ourselves and each other.
The need to safeguard the civil liberties of all Minnesotans becomes even more crucial in times like this. We must protect public health, and we must protect everyone’s rights. These goals are intertwined. The heart of supporting civil liberties is believing in equality, equity and rights for all.
Watch the bottom of this page for additional resources.
The ACLU of Minnesota believes:
- Government officials must follow public health experts' recommendations to ensure a response grounded in science, not politics or xenophobia.
- Any response to the virus should be no more intrusive on civil liberties than absolutely necessary.
- To limit COVID-19’s spread, leaders must pay particular attention to the most vulnerable people in our society, including working people, immigrants, and those involved with the criminal justice system.
Nobody should be afraid to seek medical care for fear of immigration enforcement. ICE has stated that it does not conduct enforcement at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances.
CRIMINAL LEGAL SYSTEM
People in detention are highly vulnerable to contagious illnesses because they are housed in close quarters and are often in poor health. We have called on state officials to do all they can to safeguard inmates’ health and civil liberties, including releasing people who are in jail because they can’t afford bail, limiting arrests to only the most serious offenses, and instituting furloughs for those in prison at high risk of contracting the virus.
Our state must support people who cannot afford to miss work or who lack paid sick leave. All Minnesotans face increased risk if people go to work because they can't afford not to. The government must work with employers to ensure all workers are supported in voluntarily staying home right now. We must support children who are home because schools have closed. All students must have equal access to an education, regardless of whether they have access to the internet or other resources.
THE ACLU OF MINNESOTA’S COVID-19 RESPONSE
- Our lawsuits are still active, and our lobbying team will continue to monitor any developments at the Legislature. Our organizers are continuing to build relationships and communities.
- We have created a timeline to show our response to the pandemic. The timeline details the letters, statements and testimony we have provided to state leaders and agencies urging them to take steps to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities from COVID-19.
- Our staff is now working remotely via email, text and phone calls. We are temporarily switching from in-person meetings to videoconferencing.
- Check out our FAQ page.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
- We are grateful to you for your continued support, and we need it now more than ever! Please donate at https://www.aclu-mn.org/en/donate.
- Sign up to volunteer remotely. We’re brainstorming ways to keep you engaged and involved right now! Sign up at: https://www.aclu-mn.org/en/about/volunteer-aclu-mn.
- Visit our Take Action page, and find out what you can do to support our response to the pandemic.
- We’re figuring out ways to keep our wonderful civil liberties community active. Watch this space and our social media @aclumn for updates.
- Keep posted on ACLU-MN activities and civil liberties news at www.aclu-mn.org or follow us @aclumn.
IF YOU'RE FEELING SICK
If you are feeling sick, you should stay home, avoid contact with others and monitor your symptoms. Contact your primary health care provider if your symptoms — particularly your fever, cough or shortness of breath — become severe. It is recommended that you call your provider and describe your symptoms before seeking in-person care.
Individuals with questions about how they can protect themselves and others from infection can view guidelines and recommendations from these respected organizations:
IF YOU'VE FACED DISCRIMINATION
COVID-19 does not discriminate based on race, where you come from, your immigration status, or anything else. One of the disconcerting aspects of the pandemic is the continued rise of xenophobia and racism toward Asian American community members.
In response, Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan have launched a Discrimination Helpline. Every Minnesotan can call the Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454-0148 or complete and submit this online form. The helpline is staffed by investigators from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Translation/interpretation services are available.
If you are the victim of a crime, including a hate crime, or fear for your safety, call 911 immediately.