CHN: Senate advances measure combatting Asian American – Pacific Islander discrimination

As crimes and incidents of harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders soar, the Senate last week advanced legislation to strengthen federal efforts to address the hate.

Last Wednesday, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act cleared a technical hurdle on a 92-to-6 vote, with six Republican senators voting in opposition: Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. The legislation is currently awaiting a final vote. Once the Senate and House agree on a final bill, it would go to President Biden for his signature.

The bill (S. 937) would create a new position at the Department of Justice to expedite the review of hate crimes related to the coronavirus pandemic, expand public channels to report such crimes, and require the Justice Department to issue guidance to mitigate racially discriminatory language in describing the pandemic. Many anti-hate advocates in part blame former President Trump for the rise in incidents aimed at the Asian American community after he frequently described COVID-19 as “Chinese flu” and the “China virus,” in addition to making other derogatory comments.

The legislation comes on the heels of a new report that documents the increase in hate crimes during a period of almost one year – roughly mirroring the course of the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate reported on 3,795 incidents across the U.S. from March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021. “The number of hate incidents reported to our center represent only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it does show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination, and the types of discrimination they face,” the report states.

At the same time the Senate legislation was advancing, Biden announced a key new nomination aimed in part at improving his outreach to the Asian American Pacific Islander community.

On Wednesday, the Biden Administration announced it is creating a new position – Deputy Assistant to the President and Liaison to the A.A.P.I. community. The Administration announced the appointment of Erika L. Moritsugu to fill the position. Moritsugu, who is of Japanese and Chinese descent, was formerly Vice President at the National Partnership for Women & Families, which focuses on women’s health and economic equity, among other issues. She previously served in the Obama Administration as an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Hate crimes