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Biden signs bill to counter spike in anti-Asian hate crime

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Joe Biden signs the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House in Washington, US, May 20, 2021. (Reuters photo)

President Joe Biden has signed into law legislation to curtail a dramatic rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Biden signed on Thursday the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act which overwhelmingly passed Congress in a rare show of bipartisanship following a spate of high-profile attacks on Asian Americans in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The House of Representatives approved the bill 364-62 this week, following the Senate's 94-1 vote in April.

"Silence is complicity and we cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act," Biden told lawmakers. "That's what you've done. And I can't thank you enough. I'm proud today."

The new bill, sponsored by Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono and Democratic Representative Grace Meng, will speed up the US Justice Department’s reviews of hate crimes by putting an official in charge of the effort.

Local law enforcement agencies will be assisted by federal grants to help improve their investigation, identification and reporting of bias-driven incidents, which often go underreported.

 

Incident such as stabbings, shootings and other attacks against Asian American and Pacific Islander individuals and their businesses have increased since the start of the pandemic a little over a year ago.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who is Black and Indian, said such incidents had increased six-fold during that time.

She said that while the new law brings the US closer to stopping hate, “the work to address injustice, wherever it exists, remains the work ahead.”

The spike in those incidents is mainly attributed to the former US president Donald Trump who blamed the Covid-19 pandemic on China, using terms such as “kung flu.”


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