Response & Resources on the COVID-19 Crisis
The COVID-19 global pandemic is an unprecedented crisis. In an effort to stop the spread of the highly contagious and deadly virus, public health officials and lawmakers have put into place extraordinary measures to protect the health and safety of Californians.
Both here in California and nationwide, we are confronting a range of civil liberties issues and challenges due to the state of emergency. The ACLU of Northern California is monitoring the situation to ensure that our government’s response is rooted in science and no more intrusive upon civil liberties than absolutely necessary.
We are also working to ensure that government actors craft a response that does not create disproportionate harm to vulnerable populations, particularly communities of color, which have been hit hardest by the contagion.
On this page, 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. We will update this page as the situation develops. See below for more resources.
ACLU of Northern California Letters & Responses
There are tens of thousands of people in overcrowded jails and prisons who cannot practice social distancing, making them extremely vulnerable to a COVID-19 outbreak. The ACLU of Northern California has called on our governor, county sheriffs, prosecutors and judges to take immediate steps to reduce incarceration by limiting new arrests, releasing pre-trial detainees, and releasing elderly or medically vulnerable prisoners.
- Public Access Crisis Amid Coronavirus Pandemic in California Superior Courts
- Letter to San Mateo Sheriff
- Santa Clara County Superior Court Letter re: COVID-19 and Court Secrecy
- Comments on Report to the Judicial Council of California re: State-wide Emergency Bail Schedule
- Stanislaus County Chapter — Stanislaus Criminal Justice System and COVID-19
- San Mateo Jail Policies and COVID-19
- Comments on Report to the Judicial Council of California re: Access to Court
- Public Access to Court Proceedings and Records Amid COVID-19 Crisis
- Attorney General Letter re: Reducing Arrests, Pretrial Detention, and Incarceration
- Contra Costa Superior Court System's Shutdown
- Governor Newsom Letter re: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
- COVID-19 Policy in Yuba County Jails
- COVID-19 Policy in Alameda County Jails
- COVID-19 Policy in Contra Costa County Jails
- COVID-19 Policy in Fresno County Jails
- COVID-19 Policy in Sacramento County Jails
- COVID-19 and California's Criminal Justice System
- Letter to California Police Chiefs re: Enforcement of COVID-19 Related Restrictions
- Letter to FCI Dublin: Urgent Need for COVID-19 Health and Safety Measures
The COVID-19 pandemic poses unique challenges for holding the November 2020 election in a manner that will be safe, secure, and accessible for all voters. The ACLU of Northern California is calling for elections officials and lawmakers in our state to make it as easy as possible for all eligible adults to vote by mail. At the same time, we’re demanding the institution of safe, in-person voting options for limited English speakers, people with disabilities, and others who need them.
- Letter Regarding Regulations for the Processing of Vote-by-Mail and Provisional Ballots
- Letter Requesting Secretary of State to Promulgate Emergency Regulations in Accordance with AB 1970
- Letter of Support for Expanded Vote-by-Mail in Municipal Election for the November 3, 2020 Election
- Letter of Support for Supervisor Yee’s Resolution for the Implementation of Statewide Election Reforms for the November Presidential Election
- Advocates' Recommendations for California's November 2020 Elections
As state officials consider what public health measures are necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19, the ACLU and our coalition partners urged them to issue guidance to medical providers making it clear that access to reproductive and sexual health services – including abortion, gender-affirming care, and family planning – is essential and must not be delayed.
Immigrants in ICE detention centers are held in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions where it is impossible to social distance. Scores of detainees nationwide have tested positive for COVID-19 infection so far. The ACLU of Northern California will continue to demand that ICE release all detainees in its five California detention facilities to protect the health of immigrants, staff, and the broader community. We’ve also called on local law enforcement authorities to immediately stop transfers of arrested and jailed individuals to federal immigration officials.
- Letter to Congress Members Lofgren and Panetta on Immigration Detention
- Letter to Fresno County Sheriff
- Letter to Imperial County Sheriff
- Letter to Kern County Sheriff
- Letter to Merced County Sheriff
- Letter to Monterey County Sheriff
- Letter to Orange County Sheriff
- Letter to Sacramento County Sheriff
- Letter to San Diego County Sheriff
- Letter to Stanislaus County Sheriff
- Letter to Tulare County Sheriff
- Letter to ICE re: Mesa Verde Detention Center Conditions
- Letter to ICE Demanding Immediate Release of All Detained Immigrants
- Request EOIR to Restore the BIA Pro Bono Project’s Access to Pro Bono Representation
- Governor Newsom Letter re: COVID-19 and Immigration Detention in California
COVID-19 is exposing racial disparities that are causing a disproportionate impact on communities of color that suffer from pre-existing conditions, lack of access to adequate health care, poverty, and other inequities that affect their daily lives. The ACLU of Northern California is mounting pressure on the state to provide the accurate demographic data necessary to inform an adequate distribution of resources, etc. In coalition with our affiliates in Southern California, we also called on the state Department of Public Health to put guidelines in place to help protect unhoused people during the pandemic – both those in shelters and those living on the street. We’ve also written letters and issued statements calling for state officials to put a moratorium on towing, halt evictions, and take all measures possible to minimize the impact of school closures on our most vulnerable under resourced students.
- Liberty Middle School Virtual Graduation
- ACLU CA EdTech and Civil Liberties
- Follow-up Letter to Santa Cruz re: Encampments and Towing
- Response to Remote Learning Barriers and Resource Disparities in Education
- Letter to the County of Sacramento to Provide Emergency Services to People Experiencing Homelessness
- Letter to the City of Sacramento to Provide Emergency Services to People Experiencing Homelessness
- Letter to CA Governor Supporting School's and Small Farmers
- Coalition Letter and Recommendations for Bay Area County Offices of Education
- COVID-19 Special Budget Oversight Subcommittees re: Homeless Funding
- Governor Newsom Letter re: Urgent Executive Order on Depopulating Shelters, Commandeering Hotels
- Protections for Unhoused People in the City and County of Santa Cruz
- Governor Newsom Letter re: Equity Data Collection
- Sacramento City Council Letter re: Towing Moratorium
- Central Valley Air Quality Coalition re: Adopting and Enforcing Clean Air Regulations
- Community Letter re: COVID-19 and Permanent School Closures, Mergers, and Co-locations
- Santa Cruz Chapter — Housing Policy Letter
- Governor Newsom Letter re: COVID-19 and Homelessness
- Statewide Education Equity Letter
- Statewide Hygiene and Safety in Shelters Letter
- COVID-19 Public Health Policy for California's Homeless Shelters
- Chief Justice Letter re: Halt on Eviction Hearings
- Re: Governor Newsom’s Executive Order Regarding COVID-19 and Housing-Related Matters
- Governor Newsom Letter re: Towing Moratorium
- Governor Newsom Letter re: Equity Data Collection
In our society’s response to COVID-19, it is vital that we ensure technology is used only where it directly improves the safety, freedom, and health of communities and individuals, without causing additional to harm to our civil rights and liberties. The ACLU of Northern California is fighting to defend and strengthen privacy law and prevent governments and companies from using this health crisis as pretext to further entrench and expand surveillance infrastructure that will harm Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color already disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. To do this, we are building intersectional power with allies and using an array of strategies from legislation to litigation, all to promote civil rights and civil liberties in the digital age and ensure technology isn’t used to further exacerbate inequality and perpetuate discrimination.
- ACLU Advocacy Letter re Online Bar Exam
- Toolkit: Fighting Local Surveillance
- Letter to California Budget Committee re: Contact Tracing Concerns
- Letter from Public Health Experts Opposing AB 2261
- Coalition Letter in Opposition to AB 2261 and Expansion of Facial Recognition
- White Paper: Temperature Screening and Civil Liberties During
- ACLU CA EdTech and Civil Liberties
- White Paper: The Limits of Location Tracking in an Epidemic