The House voted to pass legislation intended to counter a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The vote was 364-62 with 62 Republicans voting against it. President Joe Biden has voiced his support for the measure. Now that it has passed the House, it will be cleared for his signature.
It is known as the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. It was introduced by Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of New York and Democratic Sen, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. The legislation initially passed the Senate by a vote of 94-1 last month.
Meng said at a news conference on Tuesday: “The past year and a half has been one of pain and struggle marked by despicable and sickening acts of hate and violence against the Asian-American community.”
According to a study from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University San Bernandino, hate crimes against Asians are up 164%.
A center tracking reports of racism and discrimination against Asian Americans says it has received 6,603 firsthand complaints since last year.
.@RepGraceMeng: “The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is a necessary step to confront the second pandemic of racism and discrimination. We cannot mend what we do not measure.” #StopAsianHate pic.twitter.com/9sx5QjywQA
— The Leadership Conference (@civilrightsorg) May 18, 2021
The bill would also create direct departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to work with community-based organizations. Together, they will issue guidance raising awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic. They would also require the US Attorney General to issue guidance to work with state and local law enforcement agencies.
House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, stated that, “The Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act will strengthen our defenses to prevent and combat anti-AAPI violence and will build on steps already taken by President Biden. Together these actions will make a significant difference in how we address hate crimes in America, not only during this pandemic, but for years to come”.
The bill text states: “Following the spread of COVID-19 in 2020, there has been a dramatic increase in hate crimes and violence against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders”.
The legislation highlights the Atlanta-area spa shootings that took place earlier this year. It says, “In the midst of this alarming surge in anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents, a shooter murdered … 8 people in the Atlanta, Georgia region, 7 of whom were women and 6 of whom were women of Asian descent.”