California Congressman Ted Lieu, along with 149 members of Congress, is urging Attorney General William Barr to condemn anti-Asian discrimination amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Call to action:
The 51-year-old politician, who represents
California’s 33rd Congressional District, wrote and sent a joint letter on July 20 to the Department of Justice (DOJ), according to the Center for Public Integrity
- “We respectfully request that you, as head of the Department of Justice, forcefully condemn anti-Asian bias to send an unambiguous message to all Americans that discrimination against this community is un-American and will not be tolerated,” Lieu said in the letter.
- Lieu also cited several reports and surveys of anti-Asian incidents that occurred during the pandemic, including a warning from the FBI on the surge of hate crimes targeting Asians and a survey conducted by the Center for Public Integrity in collaboration with Ipsos.
- “We would ask that you update us regularly as to what steps the Department has taken to address our concerns,” the letter said.
A sense of urgency:
Politicians had previously sent letters to the DOJ to address the growing number of cases of hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community during the pandemic, NBC News
- Democratic Senators Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Cory Booker of New Jersey and 14 others called out the DOJ in May to address the COVID-19-related discrimination and hate crimes against the community.
- Lieu hopes that the joint letter signed by 150 senators would help put pressure on the administration and the DOJ to take action.
- “We know that the pandemic is not going away and the hate against Asian Americans is not going away,” he said. “We did not understand why the Department of Justice wasn’t doing more in countering hate crimes.”
A troubling trend: Lieu also added that criticizing China’s handling of the virus in the early days of the pandemic should not come at the expense of Asian American communities.
- “It’s fine and appropriate to criticize China. What they did at the beginning with this virus — China absolutely should not have suppressed information about this virus or lied about the virus. Those initial actions are not defensible,” Lieu said.
- “That’s very different than calling it the ‘kung flu‘ or calling it ‘the Chinese virus,’ because that leads to, first of all, making a joke of this pandemic, which he shouldn’t be doing. But also it leads to discrimination against Asian Americans,” he added, referring to Donald Trump and his officials previously using the xenophobic remarks.
- “It’d be great if the president condemned racism, but I just want him to stop making his own racist statements. If he could do that, that’d be very helpful,” Lieu said.