The United States Senate passed new legislation aimed at bolstering efforts to curb growing anti-Asian hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday by an overwhelming margin.
— The Hill (@thehill) April 22, 2021
The bill will create a new Justice Department role to expedite the investigation of COVID-19-related hate crimes and offer assistance to local law enforcement agencies in responding to anti-Asian hate crimes. It also contains a provision to boost hate crime data collection and create hate crime hotlines.
The law without hatred of Jabbara
The law was originally known as the ‘Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act’, after two recent high-profile victims of hate crimes, Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer. The vote was 94-1 in favor. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a Republican, was the bill’s lone dissenter. Two Democrats and three Republicans abstained from voting.
JUST IN: The Senate voted 94-1 to pass the anti-Asian hate crimes bill.
Republican Josh Hawley was the only "no" vote. https://t.co/L3vxojEDwX
— Axios (@axios) April 22, 2021
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives, where it is likely to receive widespread bipartisan support. President Joe Biden has expressed support for the bill and is expected to sign it into law once it arrives at his desk.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii, one of two Asian Americans in the Senate, lauded the bipartisan vote, calling it “A strong message of solidarity to our AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) culture.” Hirono took it to Twitter and wrote that “Now, I encourage the House to quickly pass this legislation so that President Biden can sign it into law.”
Rise of anti-Asian and anti-discrimination crimes in the US
The bill comes as anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination are on the rise, fuelled by what civil rights advocates call the scapegoating of Asians for a virus that originated in China.
According to police data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 150 percent in major American cities last year. Meanwhile, Stop AAPI Hate, an advocacy group formed to monitor anti-Asian prejudice during the pandemic, claims to have received over 3,800 reports of anti-Asian incidents.
Cynthia Choi: CEO of China stood for positive action
The bill “sends a strong message that hate against AAPIs is a serious problem, and obviously better data is required,” said Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action and one of the co-founders of Stop AAPI Hate. “Given that the majority of the cases we receive are not hate crimes.”
Choi wrote in an email to VOA, “We are calling for more investments in community-based organizations that are better positioned to address the needs of victims and survivors of abuse, as well as intervention and prevention-based programs in local communities. We won’t be able to legislate our way out of this.”
Maya Berry: Executive Director of the American Arab Institute
The law, according to Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute, would improve efforts to fight hate crimes by ensuring better data collection. In recent years, communities around the country have seen a rise in hate crimes, including an increase in Anti-Asian hate crimes in the aftermath of bigotry following the COVID-19 pandemic, but official hate crime data remains substantially underreported, according to Berry. “This law would aid in providing an accurate view of what is happening in communities around the country.”
The role of the Biden government in combating anti-Asian prejudices
The Biden administration has made combating anti-Asian prejudice a top priority. Biden released an executive order in January condemning anti-Asian abuse and urging the Justice Department to assist in the fight against hate crimes against Asian Americans. Erika L. Moritsugu was appointed as the White House’s representative to the Asian American community last week.