The Senate passed legislation Thursday aimed at tackling the recent rise in hate crimes and violence against Asian-Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act passed with a bipartisan vote of 94-1, with Republican senator Josh Hawley the only member to vote against the bill. It was the rare vote that had the frequently divided chamber in almost unanimous agreement across party lines.
The legislation, sponsored by Mazie Hirono of Hawaii in the Senate and Grace Meng of New York in the House, would require the Department of Justice to designate an official to expedite reviews of COVID-19-related violence and hate crimes and reports of those attacks. It also calls for the department to issue guidance to local and state law-enforcement agencies on how to establish online reporting of such incidents and collect the data and also how to build campaigns to educate the public about hate crimes.
Last month, after shootings at Atlanta-area spas killed six Asian women and two other people, President Joe Biden had advocated for Congress to “swiftly pass” the bill, saying he condemns “in the strongest possible terms the ongoing crisis of gender-based and anti-Asian violence that has long plagued our nation.”
During a news conference after the bill passage, Hirono addressed the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community saying, “We stand with you and we will continue to stand with you to prevent these kinds of crimes from happening in our country.”