Over a dozen U.S. senators have urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to take “concrete steps” to address the growing number of hate crimes against Asian Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Describing the situation as “alarming,” the senators reminded the department of the actions it’s Civil Rights Division had taken to safeguard vulnerable communities that faced similar predicaments in the past.
In their letter to Asst. Atty. General Eric S. Dreiband, U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), they noted an “inadequate federal response” to such racist and xenophobic attacks, which have skyrocketed to at least 1,500 reports, according to the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON).
The senators cited the stabbing of an Asian American man and his two children at a Sam’s Club in Texas in March, which occurred because the suspect “thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with the coronavirus.”
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On March 14, 2020, at 7:28 in Midland, Texas. Bawi Cung Nung and his son Robert were attacked with knife by Jose Gomez. Both the father and son were stabbed in the face. Robert was stabbed severely. The Hispanic attacker, Jose Gomez is only 19 years old. He has been taken into custody. During this encounter, an employee of Sam’s Club was also injured while trying to take down the attacker. Why did he stab them? Although we cannot get an answer right now due to the condition of the victims. Since the COVID-19 originated from China, many believe this is an act of racism. However, some believe that this was an act of fighting for product they need. If there’s any updates on the case, we’ll keep you guys posted. (Update: it was confirm that the attack was racially motivated) Admins Note: This is really getting out of hands now. I’m not even worry about the virus itself anymore, I’m more scared and concerned for the hate and racism toward Asians. I can’t stop thinking about our parents who have to go to work or go grocery shopping, and how they could potentially get verbally or physically attack. The fact that other minorities are the one doing is mind-boggling. I don’t feel safe anymore, and I’m sure many of you feel the same way. The ignorance and stupidity is just mind blowing. Time to start carrying weapons now for self-defense. If you see micro-aggression or any blatant racism toward chin people or Asians in general, you better intervene. Call them out of their racism, hatred, stupidity, and ignorance.
The letter was signed by 12 other senators, including former presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
The senators also criticized President Donald Trump and his allies’ use of problematic terms such as the “Chinese virus,” stressing that the “harmful rhetoric” contradicts guidance from public health experts such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the senators, the Justice Department has taken “little action” despite an earlier warning from the FBI, which predicted a surge in hate crimes.
They also described Dreiband’s op-ed regarding the matter as well as his briefing call with Asian American groups as “far from an adequate response” from the department’s Civil Rights Division, which supposedly aims to “uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”
The letter recalled the Civil Rights Division’s actions following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which included three major elements that sought to protect Arab, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian Americans from discrimination and hate. They also cited how the division monitored reports of such cases and reached out to affected communities.
“There are more than 20 million Americans of Asian descent, and 2 million AAPI individuals are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, as health care workers, law enforcement agents, first responders, and other essential service providers,” Sens. Hirono and Booker wrote. “It is critical that the Civil Rights Division ensure that the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans are protected during this pandemic.”
The senators urged the Justice Department to develop a concrete plan, provide monthly reports, and conduct extensive outreach, among other measures. They expect the Civil Rights Division — which Dreiband heads — to respond by May 15.
“Asian Americans are still facing racism and xenophobia related to the #COVID19 pandemic,” tweeted Asian American Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who signed the letter. “That’s one reason why @SenatorDurbin [Richard Durbin] and I joined @maziehirono in calling on @TheJusticeDept to take concrete steps to address the surge in hate crimes and discrimination against this community.”
Read the full letter here.
Feature Images via Getty (left) and @maziehirono (right)