WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. say they’re taking action to ensure attacks against people of Asian descent are treated as hate crimes.
U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said she’s worried for her safety due to the rise in unprovoked and racist attacks on people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.
“Before if I was walking around outside I would have my earbuds on, I would be listening to books on tape. I would never do that now,” Hirono said.
Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) said Asian Americans are fighting two viruses: COVID-19 and anti-Asian hate.
“Asian Americans being shoved to the ground, stomped on, beaten, spat on and shunned,” she said.
Nearly 3,800 attacks against Asian and Pacific Islander Americans were reported during the first year of the pandemic, according to Stop AAPI Hate. Many more attacks likely went unreported.
Sen. Hirono and Rep. Meng introduced the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in response. The bill would instruct the Justice Department to assign someone to review COVID-19 hate crimes in an expedited way and to work with states on reporting such crimes.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the bill is expected to pass quickly in the House but it will need the support of all Democrats and 10 Republicans in the Senate. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said he doesn’t see the need.
“In terms of legislation, I think it’s very clumsy,” he said. “I’m not one who naturally thinks we need a another category of crimes, particularly when there are already hate crimes.”
Other Republicans have also expressed skepticism about the bill.