Updated May 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House sends anti-Asian hate crimes bill to Biden's desk

Photo of a person kneeling in front of the Boston Chinatown gates and honoring victims of anti-Asian violence with a moment of silence

Asian Coalition of Massachusetts organizer Fiona Phie takes a moment of silence after placing an offering to honor those who have experienced violent anti-Asian hate crimes. Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The House voted 364-62 on Tuesday to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and send it to President Biden's desk, who has said he will sign the measure into law.

Why it matters: Introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), the bill is Congress' first substantial effort to address the rise of anti-Asian hate this past year, which has included stabbings, sexual assault and elder abuse.

  • The Senate cleared the legislation — which would train law enforcement to better identify anti-Asian racism, among other measures — with a rare bipartisan vote last month.

What they're saying: "Those of Asian descent have been blamed and scapegoated for the outbreak of COVID-19, and as a result, Asian Americans have been beaten, slashed, spat on and even killed," Meng said in a statement commending her colleagues. "Asian Americans are tired of living in fear."

  • "[W]e cannot fight hate crimes without fully understanding the scope of the problem," Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said in a statement. "That is why we need more tracking and reporting of these incidents, which is exactly what this bill will do."
  • "The epidemic of anti-AAPI violence is a challenge to the conscience of our country, and with today’s vital vote, Congress is taking bold, effective action to strengthen our nation’s defenses against hate crimes, save countless lives and advance justice," Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.

The Stop AAPI Hate reporting center expressed support for the bill's investment in community-based solutions, but called on Congress to pass new legislation targeting the "root causes of systemic racism. "

  • "[B]ecause the Act centers criminal law enforcement agencies in its solutions, it will not address the overwhelming majority of incidents reported to our site which are not hate crimes, but serious hate incidents."

Over 75 Asian and LGBTQ organizations urged Congress to oppose the legislation last week, arguing it would only bolster policing and disproportionately hurt marginalized communities.

  • Lawmakers have maintained the bill improves hate crime tracking and not policing.

The big picture: In America's largest cities, anti-Asian hate has jumped 164% compared with this time last year, according to data from the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

  • 24% of white Americans, however, don’t believe anti-Asian racism is a problem that should be addressed, per recent polling by the nonprofit Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change.

Go deeper... Pew: Over 80% of Asian adults say violence against them is increasing

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from lawmakers and Stop AAPI Hate.

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