The Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation last month aiming to address and strengthen federal efforts against crimes directed towards those within the Asian American community. In a resounding turnout of 94 to 1, the bill was the first legislative action that either chamber of Congress has taken involving law enforcement responses to attacks towards people of Asian descent. This comes as a direct response to the sharp increase in Anti-asian violence that has steadily increased due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)––who is the first Asian American woman elected to the chamber––to establish a position within the Justice Department to expedite reviews of hate crimes and reporting channels. It would additionally provide grants to law enforcement agencies to train officers in the identification of hate crimes, encourage the creation of hate crime hotlines in states, as well as introduce a series of public education campaigns around biases against people of Asian descent.
According to a recent pew research study, one-third of Asian Americans fear threats or attacks, and 81% say violence against them is increasing. 45% of Asian adults claim that they have experienced at least one specific offensive incident since the start of the pandemic.
Much of this violence and stigma towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is fueled by the combative political rhetoric that has occurred since the beginning of the pandemic. Racist sentiments such as President Donald Trump’s “Kung Flu” labeling of the virus that originated in China have been further echoed by many Republican lawmakers. There are only two Asian identifying Senators currently serving.
This bill marks a level of bipartisan support rarely seen in such a divided Congress. The legislation will move on to the House next month, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has pledged to put it to a vote on the floor with her full support.
Senate majority leader Chuck Shumer (D-NY) stated that through the passing of this bill, “We say to the Asian-American community that their government is paying attention to them, has heard their concerns and will respond to protect them.” President Biden has expressed enthusiasm for the legislation and is expected to sign it into law once it reaches his desk.
May is AAPI Heritage month; to find ways to individually support and uphold the AAPI community, visit https://anti-asianviolenceresources.carrd.co/