Biden signs law to fight rise in anti-Asian hate crimes amid pandemic

May 21 , 2021. 4 hours ago – 06:13 KYODO NEWS

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law a bill aimed at combating a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans amid the ongoing health crisis of the novel coronavirus first detected in China in late 2019.

“Hate can be given no safe harbor in America,” Biden said as he praised members of Congress for working to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which among other things will require the Justice Department to expedite the review of crimes targeting people of Asian or Pacific Island descent.

A Justice Department officer will be designated to oversee the review. The department will also issue guidance for local law enforcement agencies on how to establish online reporting of hate crimes and incidents, as well as guidance aimed at raising awareness about such acts.

Such efforts are expected to “make a difference” in addressing the critical problem that hate crimes are being underreported, partly due to the lack of resources and training for local law enforcement to accurately identify and report the crimes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Biden said.

The law will also authorize grants to help states create hate crime hotlines, accessible even for people with limited English proficiency, and assist efforts to provide training for hate crime investigation.

People protest in New York’s Manhattan on Feb. 27, 2021, against a recent uptick in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans, apparently fueled by the news that COVID-19 first appeared in China. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Vice President Kamala Harris, the first female, first African American and first Asian American to serve in the second-highest U.S. office, welcomed the move as she attended the signing event with Biden, but called for further efforts going forward.

“Here’s the truth. Racism exists in America. Xenophobia exists in America. Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia — it all exists,” she said. “And so the work to address injustice, wherever it exists, remains the work ahead.”

Footage of what appear to be unprovoked, racially motivated attacks against people with Asian heritage in the United States have circulated on social media from time to time since the pandemic intensified in the country last year.

A shooting in the Atlanta area that killed six women of Asian descent this past March sparked demonstrations across the country against anti-Asian racism.

A center tracking violence and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States has said it has received reports of more than 6,600 incidents during the year through March 2021, which coincides with the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Verbal harassment and shunning made up more than 80 percent of the total incidents reported, while physical assault comprised the third-largest category of total cases at 12.6 percent, according to a recent report by Stop AAPI Hate.

The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 364 to 62 on Tuesday following a Senate approval in April. The move was led by Sen. Mazie Hirono and House of Representatives member Grace Meng, both Asian American women.