By a Biometrica staffer
The US House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 18, passed the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act in a 364–62 vote, sending it to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. The initiative to pass the bill was led by Representative Grace Meng (D-New York’s 6th District) and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i). It was introduced in the Senate in March, where it was passed in a 94–1 vote on April 22.
The bill was primarily motivated by a recorded rise in reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). According to the non-profit Stop AAPI Hate, between March 2020 and February 2021 (roughly the period covering the spread of Covid-19), there were almost 3,800 reports of AAPI discrimination and “incidents” across the country. In 90% of these incidents, race was cited as the primary motive. Around one-third (36%) of the incidents took place at a business.
In March, a 21-year-old white man shot and killed 8 people in Atlanta, Georgia; six of those killed were women of Asian descent. In the wake of the tragedy, President Biden “urged” Congress to pass the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act as soon as possible, so that the federal government could more quickly respond to the rise in AAPI hate crimes.
The bill requires the Department of Justice to establish a specific position — a czar of sorts — to oversee the reporting and review of hate crimes. It also suggests a series of measures that the DOJ can take to better help state, local, and Tribal law enforcement agencies identify, prevent, and address hate crimes. The aim is to make reporting easier and more accessible, and to generate data that is more actionable. This includes setting up online reporting processes and hotlines in multiple languages, as well as better categorizing data by protected characteristic (e.g., race or national origin).
In addition, the bill also mandates financial assistance be provided to local authorities to implement campaigns that will better educate officers and the public on such hate crimes. It also suggests measures to expand community resources so that they can effectively support victims.
Folded into the bill is the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act of 2021 (Jabara-Heyer “NO HATE” Act), named for Khalid Jabara, a Lebanese American murdered by a neighbor in a racist attack in 2016, and Heather Heyer, who was run over and killed in 2017 during the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Neither of these killings were considered hate crimes at the time, but would be classified as such under the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act.
Read our piece on the rise of hate crimes in the U.S. here
Read our piece on the rise of AAPI hate crimes here
Read more about President Biden’s remarks on the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act here
See a list of anti hate crime legislation pending before Congress here
Read our piece on hate crimes against the Sikh community after 9/11 here