Rolling Stone reported today on a Politico post: “The Justice Department has quietly asked Congress for the ability to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies — part of a push for new powers that comes as the coronavirus spreads through the United States.”
The DOJ’s request would allow any chief judge of a district court to pause court proceedings “whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation,” according to draft language obtained by Politico.
The Constitution’s grant of habeas corpus to citizens means that arrestees have the right to appear in front of a judge and ask to be released before trial. The proposed legislation, however, not only essentially suspends habeas corpus indefinitely until the emergency ends, but goes further.
The DOJ is also asking Congress to suspend the statute of limitations on criminal investigations and civil proceedings during the emergency until a year after it ended. The proposal also includes a provision to pass a law saying that immigrants who test positive for COVID-19 cannot qualify as asylum seekers.
According to Politico, a Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on the documents.
While these DOJ requests will likely not come to fruition with a Democratically-controlled House of Representatives, they demonstrate how much this White House has a frightening disregard for rights enumerated in the Constitution.