What is the COVID–19 Hate Crimes Act?
The COVID–19 Hate Crimes Act, introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (New York) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) instructs the Department of Justice to designate a point person to expedite the review of hate crimes related to COVID-19.
The bill also expands efforts to make the reporting of hate crimes more accessible at the local and state levels, including providing online reporting resources that are available in multiple languages.
Federal grants will be available to help local and state law enforcement agencies set up hotlines for reporting hate crimes and improve their investigation, identification and reporting of bias-driven incidents, which often go underreported.
The bill also pushes judges involved in sentencing for hate crimes to include community service and education about the group that was affected as part of the penalties they assign.
Some activists have opposed the legislation’s reliance on law enforcement and the additional funds that would go to law enforcement agencies.
Speaking on the House floor, Meng recalled how over the past year, the Asian American community has faced an “additional pandemic: the virus of hate and bigotry.”
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who is Black and Indian, discussed reports of stabbings, shootings and other attacks against Asian American and Pacific Islander individuals and their businesses since the start of the pandemic. Harris said such incidents had increased six-fold during that time. She added that “the work to address injustice, wherever it exists, remains the work ahead.”
Several dozen lawmakers attended the bill signing ceremony, one of the largest groups to visit the Biden White House during the pandemic.