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COVID-19 Updates: SPLC continues fight against injustice

We are only beginning to feel the impacts of the coronavirus, but we know that the communities we serve — including low-income people, immigrants and people of color — are already among the most affected.

As restaurants and businesses across the country are shutting their doors, more and more people are suddenly without paychecks. Families may not be able to put food on their tables. School closures are affecting millions of children who may go hungry without free and reduced-price school meals. And people who are sick may be afraid to seek treatment because they are among the 27.5 million in the United States who do not have health coverage.

Our work, and the work of partner organizations, is needed now more than ever. We are joining hundreds of organizations from across the country to demand that local, state and federal officials safeguard families and people who may be most impacted by the crisis and establish protocols to help keep them safe and healthy.

Some of our work includes: 

SPLC Action
Get involved! SPLC Action has sent a number of emails calling on lawmakers and leaders to take action by establishing precautions to protect people from the impacts of COVID-19. Learn more.

April 7, 2020
With the COVID-19 pandemic shining a spotlight on the lack of fundamental protections in place for food supply chain workers in the South, SPLC Action published a document providing background on why state and federal leaders must adopt robust structural reforms to support and protect those workers. SPLC Action also issued a statement of solidarity with food supply chain workers who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

April 3, 2020
The SPLC and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta filed a lawsuit seeking the immediate release of a group of people held at three immigrant detention centers in south Georgia where they are at great risk of contracting COVID-19 due to their health. The lawsuit warns of a catastrophe at the privately operated detention centers, notorious for substandard conditions, as well as the surrounding communities, if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fails to take meaningful action to safeguard the health of these detained people.

April 3, 2020
The SPLC published a story about detained immigrants across the Deep South who feel like "sitting ducks" as ICE ignores their safety amid a global pandemic.

April 3, 2020
The SPLC issued this statement following a federal judge’s denial of a temporary restraining order requested by SPLC, Innovation Law Lab (Law Lab), Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and Santa Fe Dreamers Project, with pro bono assistance from the Perkins Coie law firm, to establish protective measures to ensure that the rights of immigration court respondents are not jeopardized during the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 2, 2020
The SPLC published an analysis showing that more than 1,100 people age 65 or older are locked away in Alabama prisons, putting a group already highly susceptible to the deadly COVID-19 virus at an even greater risk.

April 2, 2020
Katrina Huber, who works as a coordinator for the SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, writes about her visits to an immigrant detention center in Pine Prairie, Louisiana, and the fight for immigrant rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 1, 2020 
The SPLC and its partners appeared before a federal court seeking a temporary restraining order mandating that immigration courts take appropriate measures to protect immigrants, attorneys, court staff and the public from COVID-19 without endangering the rights of people in removal proceedings.

March 31, 2020
The SPLC and the ACLU of Louisiana filed an emergency motion for preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking the immediate release of asylum seekers who remain under the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) amid the spread of COVID-19 in ICE detention centers. 

March 30,  2020
With multiple corrections officials testing positive for COVID-19 in Florida, SPLC Action, along with its partners with the Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform have called for state officials to begin a serious effort at reducing the prison population in Florida for both public health and humanitarian reasons. This call comes weeks after SPLC Action and other members of the CCJR coalition called on Florida officials to ensure that the health and safety of people in jails, prisons and immigrant detention centers in the Deep South are being protected from the virus, and release those people most at risk of suffering serious complications or death.

March 27, 2020
The SPLC, along with Innovation Law Lab, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and Santa Fe Dreamers Project and pro bono assistance from Perkins Coie law firm filed for an emergency temporary restraining order challenging the reckless operation of the immigration courts despite the current public health crisis. We are seeking an order to require immigration courts to adopt policies and procedures that protect public health and preserve immigrants’ rights. 

March 27, 2020
“More work must be done to ensure everyone will be able to weather this crisis,” urged SPLC Action Fund Interim President and CEO Karen-Baynes-Dunning in a statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the CARES Act, a $2 trillion economic stimulus bill to address the global COVID-19 pandemic.

March 26, 2020
Following passage of a $2 trillion economic stimulus bill by the U.S. Senate, SPLC Action Fund issued a statement urging congressional leaders to take additional steps in the coming days to develop policies that address the needs of all.

March 25, 2020
SPLC and its litigation partner organizations Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center and Disability Rights Advocates filed an emergency motion for preliminary injunction in federal court seeking immediate medical protections and release for people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The preliminary injunction is being requested as part of an existing class action lawsuit, Fraihat v. ICE, on behalf of the nearly 40,000 people jailed in ICE detention facilities throughout ICE’s detention system.

March 25, 2020
SPLC issued a statement in response to expansion of voter suppression in Alabama after Gov. Kay Ivey's comments regarding no-excuse absentee balloting during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

March 24, 2020
SPLC Action joined 44 other organizations in signing a letter urging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state agencies to protect Florida’s safety net — programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Reemployment Assistance (RA), and the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

March 24, 2020
In response to the first individual in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody to test positive for COVID-19, SPLC issued a statement once again calling on ICE to release people from ICE detention.

March 24, 2020
Hatewatch released a blog about a March 17 letter to President Trump asking him to investigate China for its alleged role in spreading the novel coronavirus and hiding its origins. The letter was signed by a litany of conservative groups and figures, including members of anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ hate groups, as well as those involved in antigovernment groups, continuing to push the anti-China coronavirus rhetoric.

March 23, 2020
While immigrant and low-wage workers are literally on the front lines – stocking groceries, cleaning our hospitals, providing care for our most vulnerable – and exposing themselves and their families to the coronavirus, the proposed economic stimulus package completely fails to include them. The SPLC Action Fund released a statement calling for the relief bill to include both testing and treatment for all regardless of immigration status and meaningful elements to provide for these workers. This illness doesn’t discriminate; neither should we.

March 23, 2020
The SPLC Action Fund released a statement urging Senate leaders to back away from a harmful provision under its coronavirus stimulus plan that creates a pathway for U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to have broad power to disregard important federal requirements for schools, including laws protecting students with disabilities and low-income students.

March 23, 2020
SPLC joined over 100 other organizations in a letter to the federal immigration court system calling for the prioritization of the health and safety of government employees, detained individuals, and their legal representatives amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

March 23, 2020
Hatewatch released a blog that examines how the Trump administration is using the COVID-19 pandemic to stop asylum-seekers from entering the US from the southern border and the nativist policy behind it that anti-immigrant hate groups have been pushing for years.

March 21, 2020
Following the release of our 2019 Year in Hate and Extremism report, we published a piece on our website by Western State Center Executive Director Eric Ward about the rise of hate and xenophobia amid the coronavirus stoked by Donald Trump. 

March 20, 2020
Teaching Tolerance provided educators with lessons and resources to continue teaching students online amid school closures.

As more and more schools close, parents and guardians of school-aged children and teenagers are now finding themselves serving as both caregiver and teacher. provides a number of helpful resources and links, including how to address racismtalking to children about COVID-19 and countless other educational tools that may be helpful during this time. 

March 20, 2020
We responded to President Trump’s continued use of racist and xenophobic language by calling the coronavirus the "Chinese virus."

March 20, 2020
We responded to the Trump administration’s reckless response to the pandemic and the first confirmed cases of Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees testing positive for COVID-19.

March 19, 2020
We joined NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc, Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP) in a letter to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill urging him to develop guidance and administrative rules enabling every eligible voter in Alabama access to vote in the upcoming primary runoff election – now scheduled for July 14 – amid the pandemic.

March 19, 2020
We joined nearly 600 organizations to call on governors, mayors, utility regulators, rural electric cooperative, public power and water utility boards to take steps to implement a moratorium on all electricity and water utility shut-offs, waiver of all late-payment charges, and reinstitution of any services that have already been cut off due to nonpayment.

We further urged implementation of policies that promote clean energy systems and that establish percentage-of-income payment plans for water and other utility services, which enhance the long-term energy and climate resilience for all low-income families, communities and tribes across the country.

March 19, 2020
SPLC Action joined a coalition of Florida LGBTQ leaders in a conversation to help guide collective advocacy in addressing the needs and challenges of the LGBTQ community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

March 19, 2020
While the COVID-19 health crisis continues to unfold, we are seeing legislators across the country pushing through bills when they think no one is looking, including the Idaho Legislature that on March 18 sent a bill banning transgender youth from participating in sports to Gov. Brad Little for signing. SPLC Action joined dozens of organizations on March 19 to call on Little to veto the bill, which would be the first ban of its kind in the country.

March 18, 2020
We responded to reports that the Trump administration plans to turn back asylum seekers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

March 17, 2020
We worked to ensure that the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic addresses the needs of people and families in the South and that no one is left out at this crucial time. We were among hundreds of organizations that demanded that the U.S. Senate pass the Families First Coronavirus Act. Late on Wednesday, President Trump signed the bill that provides workers with paid sick days and emergency leave, helping them and their employers slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Families First Coronavirus Act also provides needed funding to states for nutrition programs and Medicaid, expands unemployment insurance for people facing illness-related job loss and increases access to testing and health care for people who have or may have COVID-19. The bill doesn’t do everything people need and it doesn’t cover everyone that it should. We will continue our advocacy efforts to ensure that Congress fills these gaps and that additional funding will go to support communities in need.

March 17, 2020
The SPLC Action Fund joined the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ Voting Rights Task Force and dozens of organizations to make recommendations to members of Congress, governors, and state election officials on how to expand access to the ballot box in response to COVID-19’s enormous threat to public safety. To ensure voting is fair, safe, and accessible, state and federal officials should be working to: provide options for voters who cannot register in person or vote in person on election day at their polling place, allow online and same-day voter registration, implement or expand early voting, and implement or expand no-excuse absentee or vote-by-mail programs.

March 16, 2020
We partnered with dozens of organizations to call on state officials in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida to ensure that the health and safety of people in jails and prisons — where they do not have the freedom to practice social distancing — in the Deep South are being protected from the virus, and release those people most at risk of suffering from serious complications or death.

In a series of letters to AlabamaLouisianaMississippi and Florida officials, the coalition of civil rights and social justice organizations called on states to immediately develop evidence-based protocols and proactively plan the prevention and management of a coronavirus outbreak.

The coalitions also asked that the states comply with national public health care guidelines, educate both staff and the people detained in state and federal facilities on the dangers of the virus and how to avoid contracting it, keep infected staff out of facilities and isolate individuals who have tested positive, avoid lockdowns, regularly screen and test all individuals in the facility and those who work there, ensure free and accessible phone communication with family members and confidential access to legal counsel, and release elderly people and others who are at a high risk.

March 13, 2020
The SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative team members remain at the frontlines, working alongside asylum seekers and immigrants to achieve justice in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers and courtrooms. 

We collaborated with the Americans for Immigrant Justice, Project South and Asian Americans Advancing Justice to ask that facilities run by private prisons under ICE supervision in Florida, Louisiana and Georgia disclose all of the protocols that are being used to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and grant release of all individuals who are at high risk of serious effects from the virus.

In a letter to ICE, we argued that “this is a public health emergency” and called for the immediate end of all facility-to-facility transfers to prevent the spread of the virus, tests of the current population in ICE custody and all people entering ICE custody exhibiting symptoms or risk factors, provide proper hygienic supplies at all detention and check-in facilities, and allow legal workers visiting detained people to bring gloves and disinfecting wipes into visitation rooms.

Team members are reporting dangerous conditions at detention facilities, including at Pine Prairie in Louisiana, where there is a lack of soap and hand sanitizer for the people detained there. The pandemic has greatly complicated the immigration court system as well. With unclear directive from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the decision to close courts has been left to individual judges. This inconsistency contradicts the recommendations of public health experts and puts immigrants, their families, attorneys and immigration judges at risk. 

As the COVID-19 health crisis continues to unfold, an increasing number of people and families are seeking national and regional resources for information about the pandemic and where they can find support. Here is a list of resources that includes information about the coronavirus, assistance paying bills, accessing healthcare if you are undocumented and finding information about local food banks..

This is just a snapshot of our work as the SPLC’s staff continues to telework. As we take greater precautions during this time, we are more committed than ever to fight alongside the communities we serve and partner organizations to ensure equal access to justice.  

We are stronger working together. 

Photo by VIEW Press/Getty Images