The spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has upended many Nebraskans' daily lives in profound ways. Public health experts have warned the situation will get worse before it gets better. As the virus spreads, it will become increasingly important that response plans protect the health, safety and civil liberties of all.
Above all, the ACLU of Nebraska believes:
State leaders should continue to seek and follow guidance from public health experts.
Any coronavirus response should protect civil liberties and be no more intrusive on our rights than absolutely necessary.
If leaders want to be effective in limiting the transmission of the virus, they need to pay particular attention to the people who are most at risk of harm.
Nebraskans rally when times get tough. We help neighbors in need. At the ACLU of Nebraska, our team will be doing our part by working to ensure responses to the coronavirus respect our civil liberties and individual rights.
Courts face new challenges managing proceedings during this time. Health concerns must be balanced with protections of due process and freedom of the press. We are regularly engaging directly with decisionmakers to ensure fundamental rights are protected.
We are also doubling down on our call to address Nebraska's dangerous and inhumane prison overcrowding. People who are incarcerated are already uniquely susceptible to disease. Nebraska's chronic overcrowding and understaffing add to concerns. We need you with us as we advocate for prison reform that is needed now more than ever. Find ways to help below:
State senators paused the legislative session to put public health needs first. That was the right call. So was their decision to finish session through Day 60. Speaker Jim Scheer has announced that the Legislature will reconvene July 20, wrapping up on Aug. 13. Beyond budget decisions, lawmakers still have to vote on other priority bills, ranging from anti-bias training for law enforcement officers to workplace protections for LGBTQ Nebraskans.
Other Nebraska governing bodies are also affected by this crisis. Gov. Pete Ricketts issued an executive order that allows virtual meetings so long as they’re accessible to the public and media. This executive order expires in June. Each board or council adopting virtual meetings needs to think through what accessibility looks like, especially for Nebraskans who lack access to technology and those who are visually and hearing impaired.
Nebraskans have broad agreement on the need for immigration reform. Nobody should hold off on seeking medical care because of fear they or a loved one will be deported. Importantly, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has identified health care facilities as “safe locations,” noting “ICE does not conduct enforcement operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances.”
Nebraska must support people who cannot afford to miss work or who lack paid sick leave. All Nebraskans face increased risk if people hide their condition and go to work because they can't afford not to. We have seen this happen in Nebraska with the explosion of positive COVID-19 cases in communities with meatpacking plants. We are proud to support advocacy efforts to ensure essential protections for essential workers, including paid sick leave and mandatory social distancing on the processing floor. Find ways to help below: