U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) speaks at a press conference at the United States Capitol about the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act on May 18, 2021 in Washington.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
The House passed law on Tuesday aimed at curbing a surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
Approval in a 364-62 vote sends the measure to President Joe Biden’s desk for signature. The law was passed by the Senate last month with just one vote.
The Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act would direct the Department of Justice to expedite its review of hate crimes related to the pandemic. Given the challenges of documenting violence and harassment against Asian Americans, the measure also aims to provide local law enforcement agencies with more resources to follow up on the incidents.
The measure is also intended to provide advice on how the discriminatory language associated with Covid-19 can be reduced.
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MP Grace Meng, a New York Democrat and co-author of the law, said: “The past year and a half has been one and a half of pain and struggle, marked by despicable and obnoxious acts of hatred and violence against the Asian-American community.”
“The Asian-American community is exhausted from being forced to endure this surge of bigotry and racial attacks. Asian Americans are tired of living in fear and fear that their children or older parents will go outside,” she told reporters on Tuesday. “People often ask what Congress is doing about it, and we are here today to say Congress is taking action.”
Biden supported the bill and plans to sign it. Last month, the Bureau of Administration and Budget said the move would “stand up for America’s values by taking a firm stand against anti-Asian xenophobia and hatred.”
Racist comments about the origins of the virus in China have sparked scapegoats and violence against Asian Americans in the roughly 14 months since the pandemic began. Former President Donald Trump and his allies in Congress contributed to the wave of incendiary rhetoric over China when Covid-19 first reached the United States
Hate crimes against Asian Americans reported to police increased 164% year over year in 16 of the largest US cities in the first quarter of 2021, according to the Center for Hate and Extremism Studies at California State University in San Bernardino.
Some activist groups have questioned how effective the hate crime law will be in rooting out the root causes of violence against Asian Americans, according to NBC News. The organizations expressed some concerns that better coverage of hate crimes would not be enough to prevent violence.
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