The spread of the COVID-19 virus is threatening the health of our communities and causing widespread disruption to daily life. The ACLU of Arkansas is committed to continuing to defend your constitutional rights during this crisis. We are watching to make sure the government’s response is grounded in science and staying vigilant against attempts to unnecessarily infringe on civil liberties.
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.
One of our top priorities is making sure Arkansans can continue to participate in our democracy.
In response to the virus, the State Board of Elections has announced that ALL eligible voters can now vote absentee in the upcoming March 31 runoff elections being held in Arkansas, Benton, Conway, Craighead, Garland, Grant, Greene, Hot Spring, Jefferson, Lonoke, Saline and White counties. Even during these uncertain times, it’s still critical that we exercise our right to vote. We are encouraging voters to vote by mail if possible to avoid unnecessary contact with others.
Incarcerated People and Vulnerable Populations
Another priority is to protect vulnerable populations including people in Arkansas jails and prisons who are especially susceptible to this disease. In communications with Governor Hutchinson and other state and local officials, we have outlined a sweeping set of urgent recommendations – from releasing vulnerable individuals in detention and reducing arrests to issuing a moratorium on evictions.
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.
People Experiencing Homelessness
People experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable both to the virus and to state and local regulations like curfews and lockdowns. Law enforcement must not cite unsheltered people for violations of these regulations where those alleged violations are a result of their being unsheltered.
Officials who want to limit the spread of the virus among people who are not sheltered can take steps to secure temporary housing to allow them to self-isolate. Cities can assist local shelters and food banks to ensure supplies are plentiful and that the services they provide can be continued in a safe, efficient manner.
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. The ACLU of Arkansas has called for a halt to all eviction activities to protect people from being expelled from their homes during this crisis. Government and employers must provide social and economic protection including strong paid family and medical leave policies and income support.