We are tracking all developments relating to civil liberties in West Virginia and the government’s use of emergency declarations related to the COVID-19 global pandemic. This list will be updated regularly to reflect new developments. Please continue to check back.
The spread of COVID-19 is unprecedented, and it will take many of us working together and utilizing our collective expertise to respond appropriately, effectively, and fairly. ACLU-WV will be monitoring the situation to ensure a response that is scientifically justified and no more intrusive upon civil liberties than absolutely necessary.
If you have an emergency request for legal assistance that requires immediate attention, please contact us at email@example.com.
We will also provide guidance to our elected officials on crafting a response that protects directly impacted individuals, including:
Children who are home because their school has closed are still deserving of an education. All students must have equal access to an education, regardless of whether they have access to the Internet or other resources.
Immigrants and People of Color
Medical providers should not be inquiring about immigration status when administering testing or treatment for COVID-19. Public health depends on people getting tested and taking the proper steps if infected. If people fear detention or deportation could result from seeking medical care, then they are much less likely to seek testing and treatment.
In addition, all elderly and immunocompromised individuals in ICE custody should be released on personal recognizance immediately so that they can shelter in place, as health experts recommend. There is no reason to keep vulnerable people in unsanitary and crowded detention centers during this crisis.
Likewise, we must resist and call out any efforts to scapegoat certain groups of people for this illness. Viruses do not see race or ethnicity. There are already multiple reported instances of Asian Americans and Asian people living in other countries experiencing racism and even violence.
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals must issue a directive to magistrates to put a moratorium on eviction actions, both new and pending, for the duration of the pandemic.
A moratorium will protect the homes of West Virginian renters, including the elderly and immunocompromised. The last thing that West Virginians should face during this crisis are crowded courtroom appearances or the threat of homelessness.
Voters and Our Democracy
The governor should call a special session of the West Virginia Legislature to approve no-excuse absentee voting by mail for all West Virginia voters. We cannot allow our democracy to suffer any more than it already has because of this virus. There is no reason to postpone our elections when so many states have already implemented voting by mail for all.
We must support people who cannot afford to miss work or who lack paid sick leave. All of us face risk if people hide their condition and 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 when sick, as health experts recommend.
People locked up in jails ad prisons are among the most marginalized in our society, and right now they are some of the most vulnerable to infection. Our jails and prisons are overcrowded and the conditions are often unsanitary.
We should immediately begin releasing pre-trial detainees who are being held on bond. These people have not been convicted of any crimes and are presumed innocent, under the law. They remain locked up because they cannot afford to purchase their freedom by posting bond as wealthier people accused of the same crimes are able to do.