The Senate passed a bill Thursday aimed at curbing an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
The chamber approved the measure 94-1, with Republican Josh Hawley of Missouri being the only Senator to oppose it. Legislation will go into the democratically held house. Spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Endorsed the bill, and President Joe Biden has signaled that he will legally sign it.
The proposal would direct the Department of Justice to expedite the review of hate crimes related to Covid-19. It would also allocate more resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to follow up the incidents and send guidance on eliminating discriminatory languages describing the pandemic.
“The AAPI community is focused on hate crimes and other incidents, and Congress needs to stand up to condemn these types of actions,” Senator Mazie Hirono, a Hawaiian Democrat and co-author of the law, told CNBC on Wednesday in his passage.
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The law was passed almost unanimously in the democratically led Senate after the cross-party amendments were approved.
Legislation is the most tangible measure Congress has taken to respond to the increase in violence and harassment against Asian Americans since the pandemic began last year. This was followed by an increase in racist rhetoric against China about the origins of the virus – including from former President Donald Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill.
Anti-Asian hate crimes rose about 150% in 16 of the largest US cities over the past year, according to a study published last month by the California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism in San Bernardino.
Hirono, who wrote the bill with Rep. Grace Meng, DN.Y., spoke about her own fear of violence. Earlier this month, she said she was uncomfortable walking while listening to an audiobook on her headphones.
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