The bill, which the House passed by 364 to 62 votes to 62, will expedite the review of hate crimes in the Justice Department and provide grants to help local law enforcement improve their investigation, identification and reporting bias-motivated incidents.
Congress on Tuesday approved legislation intended to curb a striking increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, sending President Joe Biden a bipartisan denunciation of the wave of brutal attacks that proliferated during the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill, which the House passed on a 364-62 vote, will expedite the review of hate crimes in the Justice Department and provide grants to help local law enforcement agencies improve their investigations, l ‘Identification and reporting of incidents motivated by bias, which often go underreported. It previously passed Senate 94-1 in April after lawmakers reached a compromise. Mr. Biden said he would sign it.
“Asian Americans have been crying for help, and the House, Senate and President Biden have clearly heard our calls,” said Representative Grace Meng, DN.Y., who helped lead the effort. to pass the bill in the House.
For many Asian Americans, the pandemic has rekindled deep-seated prejudices that, in some cases, date back to China’s exclusionary law of more than a century ago. President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to the virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China, as the “Chinese virus” or “Kung flu”. And as cases of the disease began to increase in the United States, attacks have also increased, with thousands of violent incidents reported over the past year.
Representative Judy Chu, D-California, said it was painful for many “to open the newspaper every day and see that another Asian American has been assaulted, attacked and even killed.” In February, an 84-year-old man died after being pushed to the ground near his home in San Francisco. A young family was injured in an attack on a grocery store in Texas last year. And in Georgia, six Asian women were killed in March in a series of shootings targeting massage parlor workers. Prosecutors are asking for hate crimes charges. The women who were killed are mentioned in the text of the bill.
“You start to think, will I be next?” Said Ms. Chu.
Yet for some activists, including organizations representing gay and transgender Asian Americans, the legislation is misguided. More than 100 groups have signed a statement opposing the bill for relying too much on law enforcement while providing too little funding to address the underlying issues that are leading to an increase in hate crimes.
“We’ve had hate crime laws since 1968, they’ve been expanded time and time again, and this new legislation is more or less the same,” said Jason Wu, co-chair of GAPIMNY-Empowering Queer & Trans Asian Pacific Islanders. “These problems are linked to prejudice, but also rooted in inequalities and the lack of investment and resources for our communities. Not a shortage of police and prisons.” Meng acknowledged some of the concerns raised by the groups, but countered that the widespread underreporting of hate crimes needs to be addressed.
“Law enforcement is currently underreporting these kinds of incidents and it’s easy to ignore hate crimes all together,” she said.
Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, suggested that the rise in Asian-American violence was linked to efforts by some Democrats and other progressives to cut funding for police.
“This violence, by and large, is happening in cities controlled by Democrats,” Jordan said. If “the money was not taken from the police and they were allowed to do their job, we would probably be in an entirely different position.” Yet the bill also represented a rare moment of bipartisanship in a Congress that has struggled to overcome the partisan deadlock, while underscoring a shift in Republican thinking on hate crime legislation.
Many conservatives have historically rejected hate crime laws, arguing that they create special protected classes so that victims of similar crimes are treated differently.
“I am happy that Congress is meeting in a bipartisan fashion,” said Representative Young Kim, a Republican from California who is Korean-American. “Also recognize that we cannot legislate to hate the hearts and minds of our people.” Speaking earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the passage of the bill sends a “powerful message of solidarity” to those who have suffered discrimination during the pandemic.
“Discrimination against Asian Americans is unfortunately not a new phenomenon in our country’s history, but the pandemic has brought old prejudices and prejudices back to the fore,” said the New York Democrat. “The Senate can be proud of having taken the lead.”