SPONSORED:

Biden signs anti-Asian hate crimes bill into law

President BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE on Thursday signed into law legislation that aims to combat the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans that has occurred since the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill, called the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, is designed to improve hate crime tracking and reporting by assigning a Justice Department official to review and expedite hate crimes reports and bolstering support for state and local officials investigating hate crimes.

“My message to all of those of you who are hurting is we see you and the Congress has said, we see you. And we are committed to stop the hatred and the bias,” Biden said at a signing ceremony.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We have to change the hearts of the American people. I mean this from the bottom of my heart, hate can be given no safe harbor in America. I mean it, no safe harbor. It can’t be dismissed, like ‘well that’s just what happens,’” he added.

Biden’s speech included an emotional plea that “every time we’re silent, every time we let hate flourish, you make a lie of who we are as a nation,” raising his voice at the podium.

The president highlighted that the bipartisan COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act cleared the Senate with a 94-1 vote and passed overwhelmingly in the House as well. Dozens of lawmakers attended the bill signing on Thursday, including Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDOJ to probe Trump-era subpoenas of lawmaker records Democrats demand Barr, Sessions testify on Apple data subpoenas Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives MORE (D-N.Y.), Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiVaccinated lawmakers no longer required to wear masks on House floor Simmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over Pelosi signals no further action against Omar MORE (D-Calif.), Sens. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoWhite House gets back to pre-COVID-19 normality Biden signs anti-Asian hate crimes bill into law House sends anti-Asian hate bill to Biden's desk MORE (D-Hawaii), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthChina conducts amphibious landing drill near Taiwan after senators' visit US, Taiwan to discuss trade, investments, Blinken says Chinese state media rip senators' stop in Taiwan: 'A treacherous move' MORE (D-Ill.), and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsWhy the Democrats need Joe Manchin White House briefed on bipartisan infrastructure deal but says questions remain Bipartisan Senate group announces infrastructure deal MORE (R-Maine).

In total, 68 guests attended, most of them maskless, in one of the first large, indoor gatherings of the Biden administration.

Also in attendance was the mother of Heather Heyer, who was killed counter-protesting at the United the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, and the family of Khalid Jabara, who was killed in 2016 in a hate crime. The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act includes a provision named for the two victims.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Because of you, history will remember this day and this moment when our nation took action to combat hate,” Vice President Harris said at the bill signing, thanking the lawmakers who worked on the legislation in Congress.

She noted that there have been 6,600 cases of hate crimes targeted at Asian Americans since March 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This violence, it did not come from nowhere and none of it is new,” Harris said. 

“But after the president signs this bill today, we will not be done. Here’s the truth. Racism exists in America, xenophobia exists in America, antisemitism, Islamaphobia, homophobia, transphobia, it all exists. And so the work to address injustice wherever it exists remains the work ahead,” she added.

The bill’s passage, which came during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, represented a rare bipartisan feat in a divided Washington.

ADVERTISEMENT

The House passed the bill in a decisive bipartisan vote of 364-62 on Tuesday, with only Republicans voting against the measure. In April, only Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyGOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack Senate Republicans delaying Biden OPM nominee's confirmation MORE (R-Mo.) voted to oppose the bill in the upper chamber.

The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate says it has received reports of over 6,600 anti-Asian hate incidents since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

According to a recent report relying on crime data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, anti-Asian hate crimes in major U.S. cities increased 169 percent in the first quarter of 2021 over the same period in the previous year.

“This bill is very, very meaningful to AAPIs across the country,” said Rep. Judy ChuJudy May ChuBiden to task White House initiative with coordinating 'comprehensive' response to anti-Asian bias Biden signs anti-Asian hate crimes bill into law Kamala Harris grapples with unique challenges as vice president MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said in a recent interview with The Hill. Chu, who also attended the signing Thursday, commended Biden and Harris for condemning hate crimes against Asian Americans and taking executive action to address the issue.

Comparing Biden’s actions to those of the Trump administration, she said, "This has been like night and day on the AAPI hate issue."

Representatives from Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Arab American Institute, Sikh Coalition, and AAPI Victory Fund, among other groups, were also in the audience.

The bill does not name former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE, though Democrats have blamed his rhetoric on the coronavirus in part for the rise in anti-Asian violence. Trump called the coronavirus the “China virus” and “kung flu” when he was in office and repeatedly referred to the virus’s origins in China.

Biden, who called the legislation to be passed earlier this year, has forcefully condemned anti-Asian violence and taken a handful of executive actions to address discrimination and violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

The White House also recently brought on Erika Moritsugu as a senior liaison in response to complaints from lawmakers regarding a lack of AAPI representation in Cabinet positions.

—Updated at 3:10 p.m.