10 Ways to Take Action to Protect the Human Rights of All People in the COVID-19 Pandemic…All While Physical Distancing

By Rebecca Ma, Amnesty International USA Campaigner

We are living in uncertain and unsettling times. New developments around COVID-19 seem to break the news every hour. We’re concerned and thinking of our loved ones, our neighbors, and our communities, but have to take care of them and ourselves by physically distancing ourselves from each other.

Now, as we watch the U.S. government address the public health and humanitarian challenges presented by the pandemic, we’re seeing groups of people abandoned, left behind, and endangered:

Two weeks ago, the U.S. announced the closure of its borders, effectively banning people seeking safety here.

In immigration detention facilities, staff and detainees have tested positive for COVID-19. Yet Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) won’t release individuals and families from its crowded facilities.

We are seeing a similar situation unfold in prisons and jails. Staff and incarcerated individuals have tested positive and need hospitalization, while health care supplies, systems, and access remain inadequate in these complexes.

Communities across the U.S. are at risk of increased gun violence, with gun sales skyrocketing, hate and xenophobia are on the rise, domestic violence survivors trapped with their abusers, and millions of children stuck at home with unlocked guns. President Trump responded by advising states to include gun stores on the list of essential businesses that stay open.

On the list of nonessential services? Abortion clinics. Last week, states including Texas, Mississippi and Ohio restricted access to abortion and reproductive rights, using the COVID-19 pandemic as justification.

Other groups of people — including those living in poverty, in the gig or service economy and other insecure or informal employment, persons with disabilities, and Indigenous People, among others — also face additional challenges in accessing care and have been left out of the equation in the U.S.’ response to the pandemic.

No one should be treated as an afterthought.

Ensuring the human rights to safety, health, and security — among others — of all people must be at the center of all stages of this crisis — prevention, preparedness, containment, and treatment.

It’s more important than ever, as people across the world collectively look after one another, that we prioritize the human rights of all people.

How can we do this in the age of physical distancing?

Here are ten simple actions you can take from home, that could have a powerful and profound impact on the human rights of millions of people:

1. Urge the White House Coronavirus Task Force to ensure the U.S. government protects the human rights of all people, including the right to health.

2. Tell the Trump administration to provide the health services and equipment needed to save lives.

3. Demand the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE immediately releases immigrants and asylum-seekers from detention.

4. Write letters of solidarity to those in immigration detention, sharing messages of hope and offering your support to help them feel less isolated.

5. Call on DHS not to shut the door to people seeking asylum.

6. Ask your Senators to pass laws that will help end gun violence.

7. Make your voice heard on social media, using our graphics calling for solidarity and respect for human rights, and tagging @amnestyusa so we can amplify your calls!

8. Start or join a virtual human rights action team to ensure human rights are not forgotten during this global pandemic.

9. Learn more on our online course about COVID-19’s human rights implications, states’ human rights obligations, and how to take action.

10. Check out www.amnestyusa.org/covid19, where we highlight how you can engage on urgent case actions for individuals at risk, and hear from experts on our media workshops on the intersection of COVID-19 and various human rights issues concerning asylum, immigration, refugees, criminal justice, gun violence, and technology and surveillance, among others.

We may be physically distant at the moment, but if there’s anything this crisis has shown us, it’s how interconnected we all are.

Now is the time to look out for one another.

Now is the time to prioritize human rights.

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