WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 last month in Atlanta.
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 Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, 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.
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.
Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a former Army helicopter pilot who lost her legs during a 2004 attack in Iraq, 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.”