Biden Signs Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Act Into Law

POTUS Joe Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law on Thursday, sealing its fate after bipartisan support in Congress.

Why it matters: The new law will accelerate the investigation of coronavirus-related hate crimes, which have disproportionately impacted Asian Americans in the course of the pandemic.

  • A new position in the Justice Department will lead the effort, which includes the establishment of online reporting systems and public awareness campaigns.
  • National coalition Stop AAPI Hate received 6,603 reports of anti-Asian incidents between March 19, 2020 and March 31, 2021, but research nonprofit AAPI Data estimates up to two million cases since the onset of COVID-19.
  • In signing the bill, Biden acknowledged the underreporting of such incidents and expressed confidence that the new law “is going to make a difference.”

Bipartisan support: The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act won massive bipartisan support in Congress after its introduction in March by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY).

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  • The bill received a 94-1 vote in the Senate in April and a 364-62 vote in the House earlier this week.
  • Addressing one of the largest mid-pandemic crowds in the White House, Biden praised Democrats and Republicans for exercising “the kind of bipartisanship” that has been absent in Washington “for much too long.”
  • Ahead of the signing, VP Kamala Harris said the bill brings the nation “one step closer to stopping hate, not only for Asian Americans, but for all Americans.”

What opposers are saying: Critics of the legislation have voiced various reasons for opposition, such as its ambiguity and supposed overreliance on law enforcement.

  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), the lone senator to vote no in April, said the bill raises “big free speech questions” as it would grant the federal government “sweeping authority” over what counts as offensive speech.
  • Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), one of the 62 Republicans to reject the bill this week, echoed Hawley’s sentiment and suggested that the surge in violence against Asian Americans is linked to efforts to defund the police.
  • As of this writing, more than 100 Asian and LGBTQ organizations have also opposed the legislation, which they say relies on “anti-Black” law enforcement responses and “contradicts Asian solidarity with Black, Brown, undocumented, trans, low-income, sex worker and other marginalized communities whose liberation is bound together.”

Featured Image via The White House

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