The spread of COVID-19 will affect all New Yorkers. But it is especially important to protect people who are most at risk, including low-income New Yorkers, people who are incarcerated, and immigrants. The NYCLU is watching closely to ensure that policies developed to stem the virus’s spread are driven by public health best practices and that government action is sound, effective, and responsible.
The NYCLU is working to guarantee paid sick leave for workers, protect people who are involved in the criminal legal system and immigration system, and ensure that students have equitable access to remote learning and school programs.
Working New Yorkers
As schools, restaurants, and other business shut down, many New Yorkers are left without a way to make a living. Those who still have jobs and do not have paid sick leave may be pressured to go to work, because they cannot afford not to. One of the best ways to combat COVID-19 is by allowing people to stay home if they feel sick. But for the 1.3 million New Yorkers who lack paid sick leave, that hasn’t been an option.
The NYCLU is working to ensure that New York passes legislation that permanently requires employers to provide sick leave and includes specific provisions to help people dealing with the coronavirus.
People in Jails and Prisons
People in prisons, jails, and detention centers are especially vulnerable to coronavirus. They are often in close quarters, have little control over their daily interaction with others, and do not have the ability to take preventive measures to protect their health. To limit outbreaks of COVID-19, officials must develop plans quickly in coordination with local public health officials to ensure the safety of incarcerated people.
This includes screening and testing people, distributing handwashing and sanitizing supplies, and educating the staff and the people under their care about how to prevent the spread of the disease.
Just as those in prisons and jails are in particular danger from coronavirus, people in immigrant detention face similar risks. To make matters worse, ICE has made it common practice to lock people up who pose no safety threat for weeks or even months while they wait for their immigration cases to play out.
That’s why the NYCLU asked a federal court for an emergency order that would result in ICE releasing people from jails in New York and New Jersey unless they pose a clear safety or flight risk.
COVID-19 has forced schools across the state to shutter, disrupting the learning of millions of students. Many students don’t just come to school to learn, they count on them for basic necessities like food and medical care. Many families also turn to schools for general government information like whether they will be evicted if they lose their job, whether ICE is continuing to arrest people, and where they can go for help finding child care.
The NYCLU is working to make sure that while schools are closed, students and families continue to get the education and support they need.
The coronavirus has exposed the deep inequity within our society and provided an urgent opportunity to address it. The NYCLU is committed to making sure that government responses to the pandemic are carefully crafted, equitable, and meaningful.