President Joe Biden has signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law as the nation experiences a rise in hate crimes against Asian American communities.
Signed into law on May 20, S.937 will strengthen public outreach and make it easier for minorities to report hate crimes by ensuring that reporting resources are available in multiple languages. It would also require the appointment of “a designated officer or employee of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to facilitate the expedited review of hate crimes and reports of hate crimes.”
Texas State Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Farmers Branch) voiced her approval for the bill which affects thousands of residents in her district.
“Thank you to Congress and to President Joe Biden for acting to stop the rise of hate crimes against Asian American communities,” Johnson said in a May 20 Facebook post. “This bill will protect thousands of my constituents in District 115.”
The bill was co-authored by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), according to NPR News.
Vice President Kamala Harris, the country’s first Asian American vice president, shared some insight on the recent rise of hate crimes against Asian Americans.
“This violence — it did not come from nowhere, and none of it is new,” Harris said, NPR News reported. “In my life, my lived experience, I have seen how hate can pervade our communities. I have seen how hate can impede our progress. And I have seen how people uniting against hate can strengthen our country.”
Harris added that the bill was an important step, but that there was still work to do to address the issue of racism.
“Here’s the truth: Racism exists in America. Xenophobia exists in America, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia — it all exists. And so the work to address injustice wherever it exists remains the work ahead,” Harris said.
Asian Americans have reported a massive surge in racial violence and harassment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization Stop AAPI Hate cited approximately 6,600 hate incidents from March 2020 to March 2021, but added that the actual number is likely much higher because many hate crimes go unreported.