BIPARTISAN DENUNCIATION. In this April 15, 2021 file photo, President
Joe Biden, center, accompanied by, from left, Vice President Kamala
Harris, senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Rep.
Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), speaks during a
meeting with members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus
Executive Committee at the White House in Washington. The senate on
April 22 overwhelmingly passed a bill that would help combat the rise of
hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a bipartisan
denunciation of such violence during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP
Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
From The Asian Reporter, V31, #5 (May 3, 2021), page 9.
Senate OKs bill to fight hate crimes against Asian
By Mary Clare Jalonick
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The senate on April 22 overwhelmingly passed a bill that
would help combat the rise of hate crimes against Asian Americans and
Pacific Islanders, a bipartisan denunciation of such violence during the
coronavirus pandemic and a modest step toward legislating in a chamber
where most of President Joe Biden’s agenda has stalled.
The measure would expedite the review of hate crimes at the Justice
Department and provide support for local law enforcement in response to
thousands of reported violent incidents in the past year. Police have
seen a noted uptick in such crimes, including the February death of an
84-year-old man who was pushed to the ground near his home in San
Francisco, a young family that was injured in a Texas grocery store
attack last year, and the killing of six Asian women in shootings in
The names of the six women killed in Georgia are listed in the bill,
which passed the senate on a 94-1 vote. Biden applauded the measure,
tweeting, "Acts of hate against Asian Americans are wrong, un-American,
and must stop." The house is expected to consider similar legislation in
the coming weeks.
Democratic senator Mazie Hirono of Hawai‘i, the legislation’s lead
sponsor, said the measure is incredibly important to Asian Americans and
Pacific Islanders, "who have often felt very invisible in our country,
always seen as foreign, always seen as the other." She said the message
of the legislation is as important as its content and substance.
Hirono, the first Asian-American woman elected to the senate, said
the attacks are "a predictable and foreseeable consequence" of racist
and inflammatory language that has been used against Asians during the
pandemic, including slurs used by former President Donald Trump.
Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth, a former Army helicopter pilot who
lost her legs during a 2004 attack in Iraq, said she had been asked what
country she was from while wearing her U.S. military uniform. Duckworth,
the first member of congress born in Thailand, said there is more work
to be done, but the bill’s passage tells the community that "we will
stand with you and we will protect you."
It’s unclear whether the bipartisan bill is a sign of things to come
in the senate, where Republicans and Democrats have fundamental
differences and often struggle to work together. Under an agreement
struck by senate leaders at the start of the year, Republicans and
Democrats pledged to at least try to debate bills and see if they could
reach agreement through the legislative process. The hate crimes
legislation is the first byproduct of that agreement. Some said it
doesn’t need to be the last.
Hirono said it is her "sincere hope that we can channel and sustain
the bipartisan work done on this important piece of legislation" to a
larger bill that would change policing laws, which senate Republicans
are negotiating with house Democrats. South Dakota senator John Thune,
the No. 2 Republican, said ahead of the vote that he hopes the
bipartisan example of the hate crimes bill will extend to an
infrastructure package that has so far divided the parties.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), said the legislation
shows that the chamber can work in a bipartisan fashion, and he aims to
make that happen as much as possible. "That doesn’t mean we forgo our
principles. It doesn’t mean we cut back on the boldness that is needed,"
he said. "It means we try to work with our Republican colleagues
wherever we can."
But unlike many of the larger, more controversial policy issues
Democrats hope to tackle in their new majority, efforts to combat the
rising violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have
almost universal backing. More than 3,000 incidents have been reported
to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for such crimes,
and its partner advocacy groups since mid-March 2020.
Republicans said they agreed with the premise of the legislation and
signalled they were willing to back it with minor changes, an unusual
sign of comity amid frequent standstills in the polarized senate. Hirono
worked closely with senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) to incorporate some
additional Republican and bipartisan provisions, including better
reporting of hate crimes nationally and grant money for states to set up
hate crime hotlines.
The revised bill would also replace language in the original
legislation that called for "guidance describing best practices to
mitigate racially discriminatory language in describing the COVID-19
pandemic." The legislation would instead require the government to issue
guidance aimed at "raising awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic"
to address some GOP concerns about policing speech.
Republicans agreed to back the compromise bill after the senate also
voted on and rejected a series of GOP amendments, including efforts to
prevent discrimination against Asian Americans in college admissions and
reporting about restrictions on religious exercise during the pandemic.
Only one Republican, Missouri senator Josh Hawley, voted against the
bill. In a statement, Hawley said he believed the legislation was too
broad, and "my view is it’s dangerous to simply give the federal
government open-ended authority to define a whole new class of federal
hate crime incidents."
Representative Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), introduced a similar bill in the
house, which she says is expected to be considered in May.
"For more than a year, Asian Americans all across our nation have
been screaming out for help," Meng said, and the senate showed that
"they heard our pleas."
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