Statement by the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Leading a Coordinated Civil Rights Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Pamela S. Karlan issued the following statement and attached resource guide to assist Federal agencies, state and local governments, and recipients of Federal financial assistance in addressing ongoing civil rights challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic:

The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed our Nation’s commitment to an open, equal, and inclusive society. We have seen hateful and xenophobic rhetoric and violence aimed at Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and businesses. We have also seen Black, Indigenous, Latino, and Pacific Islander communities, as well as people with disabilities, suffer disproportionately high rates of death and greater risk of infection and hospitalization. COVID-19 has magnified social, economic, and environmental inequalities that we cannot ignore.

As a Nation, we cannot adequately respond to, and recover from, COVID-19 if we do not protect all of our neighbors. That requires us to pursue justice on behalf of those targeted because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), disability, or citizenship.

The Department of Justice will vigorously enforce Federal civil rights as we continue the process of national reckoning, recovery, and healing. Civil rights protections and responsibilities still apply, even during emergencies. They cannot be waived. Federal agencies, state and local governments, and recipients of Federal financial assistance are an integral part of our shared effort to uphold civil rights.

The following principles should assist in meeting these nondiscrimination obligations:


1. Combat hate crimes, harassment, and other discrimination against the AAPI community.

2. Ensure equal access for people with disabilities and avoid disability discrimination.

3. Reduce further learning loss for vulnerable students.

4. Protect correctional staff, incarcerated and detained people, and their families.

5. Protect vulnerable populations facing housing instability.

6. Provide information in languages other than English.

7. Collect data to monitor, track, and ensure equitable outcomes.

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