COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act Passes Congress, Heads to Biden’s Desk

May 18, 2021 Updated: May 18, 2021

The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, a measure intended to address hate incidents against Asian Americans amid the CCP virus pandemic, passed a final vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, heading to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

The proposed legislation passed by a vote of 364-62 in the Democrat-majority chamber. All no votes were from Republicans. Biden has said he will sign the measure into law soon.

The legislation seeks to combat attacks and racism that target Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Specifically, it would designate an employee of the Justice Department to expedite review of alleged COVID-19 hate crimes reported to law enforcement on the local, state, or federal level.

The bill would also provide guidance for state and local law enforcement to establish online reporting of alleged hate crimes or incidents and make such reporting available in multiple languages. It would also expand “culturally competent and linguistically appropriate public education campaigns” and collect data and public reporting of alleged hate crimes. Furthermore, the measure would order a number of federal officials to “issue guidance describing best practices to mitigate racially discriminatory language in describing the COVID–19 pandemic.”

Since March 2020, the start of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, more than 6,600 alleged hate incidents against Asian Americans have been reported, according to the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate. The races of the assailants were not reported.

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), who authored the bill with Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), said in a statement she was “extremely thankful” to see the measure pass the House.

“I commend my colleagues in the House for taking action to combat the despicable and sickening acts hate and violence against Asian Americans, and for having the Asian American community’s back as we fight this xenophobia and racist attacks,” she said.

She added, “Those of Asian descent have been blamed and scapegoated for the outbreak of COVID-19, and as a result Asian Americans have been beaten, slashed, spat on and even killed. The Asian American community is exhausted from being forced to endure this ongoing racism and prejudice. Asian Americans are tired of living in fear, and being frightened about their kids or elderly parents going outside.”

When the legislation was approved in the evenly-divided Senate in April on a 94-1 vote, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the only no vote on the bill.

In an interview with Fox News, the Republican senator said, “It’s too broad. As a former prosecutor, my view is it’s dangerous to simply give the federal government open-ended authority to define a whole new class of federal hate crime incidents.”

Hate crimes are dealt with a higher penalty. Prosecutors can allege that the crime was motivated—in whole or in part—by the perpetrator’s hate against a person or group’s characteristics such as race, religion, and gender. Making a case for such a charge can be difficult since they depend on figuring out the perpetrator’s state of mind.

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