House Passes Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Act

The House of Representatives passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act on Tuesday, bringing the legislation to POTUS Biden for his signature.

What it’s about: The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) in March, aims to aggressively investigate hate crimes, which have disproportionately affected Asian Americans in the course of the pandemic.

  • It will designate an officer or employee of the Department of Justice to “facilitate the expedited review of hate crimes” related to COVID-19.
  • Through the bill, law enforcement agencies will receive guidance in establishing the online reporting of hate incidents, collecting data and expanding public awareness campaigns.
  • Grants may also be given to states and local governments in their implementation of the national reporting system, including the training of employees in identifying and classifying hate crimes.

Congress takes action: The bill passed the House on Tuesday with a 364-62 vote, with all opposition coming from Republicans.

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  • Last month, the bill passed the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan vote (94-1), with the lone nay coming from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO).
  • Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), who led the bill’s passing — after introducing an earlier version last year, which failed to gain traction — congratulated her colleagues for “having the Asian American community’s back,” according to the Washington Post.
  • Ahead of the vote, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, hailed the bill as a “historic action to pass long overdue hate crimes legislation.” 
  • The bill is now headed to POTUS Biden, who pledged to swiftly sign it into law last month.

Addressing public opposition: The bill has been opposed by activist groups, including more than 85 Asian and LGBT organizations, over concerns that the legislation relies on “anti-Black, law enforcement responses.”

  • The groups signed a statement expressing the opposition and added, “bolstering of law enforcement and criminalization does not keep us safe and in fact harms and furthers violence against Asian communities facing some of the greatest disparities and attacks.”
  • Meng addressed these concerns, noting the bill mainly focuses on “improving data collection,” and does not allocate any more funding to law enforcement, reported Politico.
  • “This legislation does assume that law enforcement is under-reporting these kinds of incidents, and it makes it easy to ignore hate crimes all together,” she said.

Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition monitoring anti-Asian incidents, received 6,603 reports of such cases between March 19, 2020 and March 31, 2021.

Featured Image Screenshot via House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

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