April 16, 2021 By Ryan Songalia
A bill sponsored by Congresswoman Grace Meng that aims to combat hate crimes that target the Asian-American community moved one step closer to becoming law Wednesday.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of advancing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would simplify the reporting and review process pertaining to racially motivated crimes.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill, sponsored by Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii in the senate, would soon go before the full senate floor for a vote.
The bill was first introduced in the House of Representatives by Meng in May 2020, and gained traction in March, following the mass killing of eight people, including six Asian women, in Georgia.
President Joe Biden called on Congress, following the deadly attack, to “swiftly pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.”
The bill would require the Department of Justice to expedite the review process following potential hate crimes related to the pandemic, and issue guidance to law enforcement agencies on how to improve hate crime reporting.
The legislation also calls for guidelines on how federal agencies can avoid racially discriminatory language in describing the pandemic.
There has been a significant jump in the number of anti-Asian attacks in the past year–primarily tied to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 28 hate crimes against Asian Americans in New York last year, compared to just three in 2019, according to the NYPD.
“There have been assaults all across the nation, including in my home district of Queens, New York,” Rep. Meng said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The press conference was attended by Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with Sen. Hirono and Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey, both of whom are of Asian descent.
For Meng, the wave of anti-Asian hate has been personal.
In October, she shared anti-Asian voicemail messages she receive, shortly after her ceremonial resolution condemning the racist attacks passed the House of Representatives. Many of the messages contained the words “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu,” echoing references made by former President Donald Trump.
“You all know that for more than a year the Asian American community has been fighting two viruses – the Covid-19 pandemic and anti-Asian hate,” said Meng said.