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Meng Introduces Legislation to Combat COVID-19 Hate Crimes

May 7, 2020
Press Release
Rise in discrimination and violence continues amid coronavirus pandemic
QUEENS, NY – With various communities continuing to struggle with the surge in discriminatory attacks during the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) announced today that she has introduced legislation that seeks to provide greater federal government oversight of COVID-19 hate crimes, and require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide Congress with regular updates on the status of reported bias incidents.
 
Since the beginning of the crisis, there have been numerous reports of Asian Americans being threatened, harassed, or assaulted. The pandemic has also fueled a rise in anti-Semitic incidents against the Jewish community, and caused concern among members of the LGBTQ community. As a result, these communities, in addition to working to combat the coronavirus, are left fighting an additional front – that of hate and injustice.
 
Entitled the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act (H.R.6721), Meng’s bill would require the Attorney General to designate a DOJ officer or employee to:
 
  1. Facilitate the expedited review of COVID-19 hate crimes reported to federal, state, and/or local law enforcement; and
  2. Report to Congress monthly on the status of these cases, including any resources provided to complainants, and actions taken to further investigate those incidents, with data disaggregated by victim’s race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, and location of occurrence. These reports would be required to be provided for at least until one year after the COVID-19 public health emergency is lifted.
 
“As millions across the nation are worried about and impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, many are also living in fear following the dramatic increase of threats and attacks against different communities due to the rise in COVID-19-related bigotry and hate. Many are afraid of abusive and violent acts being committed against them and their loved ones,” said Congresswoman Meng. “During this time of heightened anxiety, we must do everything possible to protect the safety of every single person – no matter their race, ethnicity, religion or background. The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is a necessary step to confront this disgusting and deplorable rise in intolerance and violence, and I urge all my colleagues to join my effort to fight these bias crimes, and keep all Americans safe.”
 
“We are grateful for Representative Meng’s leadership in responding to the rise in anti-Asian hate incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “We need greater transparency and accountability in the reporting and handling of COVID-19-related hate crimes by law enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels. Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC is committed to countering hate in all its forms, and we will to continue to push for a comprehensive approach to documenting and addressing hate crimes and prioritizing protecting health and safety for all.”
 
“We thank Congresswoman Meng for introducing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to improve the ability of the federal government to respond to acts of hate in a coordinated fashion,” said National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) President Bonnie Lee Wolf. “Unfortunately, the emergence of the coronavirus has led to an increase in acts of hate and discrimination targeting the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. By coordinating a review of incidents and reporting at a federal level, law enforcement, government, and communities can better work together to identify strategies to combat acts of hate.”
 
“During this pandemic, we have seen a rash of hate-motivated attacks targeting Asian Americans and other marginalized communities. Many people in these communities are working on the front lines in hospitals, grocery stores, cabs and more and they deserve our support, not hate,” said Madihha Ahussain, Muslim Advocates’ special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry. “The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is a needed step forward towards protecting our community and holding perpetrators of hate crimes accountable for their actions and stopping this rampant bigotry.”
 
“As a health justice organization and as a public health advocate, we always care about the well-being of our communities,” said Juliet K. Choi, Executive Vice President of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “The insidious nature of racism and hate motivated crimes affects the entire well-being of our communities. We are pleased that Congresswoman Grace Meng has introduced legislation that will put immediate federal resources to investigate and address hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
 
"Discrimination and xenophobia anywhere are unacceptable. COVID-19 has affected all communities, and it is appalling that Asian Americans have become targets of physical and verbal abuse and other acts of hate," said Adam Carbullido, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations. "Like many, Asian Americans are on the front lines in combating COVID-19, serving as trusted health care providers and other essential workers. Acts of hate and violence against our communities make it difficult for medical providers to give care and stokes fear in patients who are afraid to seek the care they need. AAPCHO commends Representative Meng for her leadership in introducing this legislation and for being a firm champion against all forms of discrimination. Her bill would ensure that hate crimes against Asian Americans are appropriately investigated and perpetrators are brought to justice. We urge all our elected leaders to support this bill and to denounce all forms of anti-Asian xenophobia. Viruses don't discriminate; we must stand together to overcome this crisis."
 
“The surge in anti-Asian hate has been felt especially by women, who have reported between two and three times more instances of harassment and violence than men in just the past several weeks,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum. “Recently, I have personally been on the receiving end of racist harassment, when I was taking a walk with my five-year-old daughter. Our government has a critical role and responsibility in ensuring the health and safety of our communities and this racist hate, harassment, and violence must cease so that we can recover together.”
 
Meng’s bill is endorsed by Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), Oxfam America, and Muslim Advocates.
 
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is cosponsored by Reps. Ted W. Lieu; Alan Lowenthal; Bonnie Watson Coleman; Joseph P. Kennedy, III; Bill Pascrell, Jr.; Barbara Lee; Jahana Hayes; Eliot L. Engel; Nydia M. Velázquez; Adriano Espaillat; Earl Blumenauer; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Stephen F. Lynch; Grace F. Napolitano; Anna G. Eshoo; Derek Kilmer; Thomas Suozzi; Sheila Jackson Lee; Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr.; Al Green; Emanuel Cleaver, II; Donald M. Payne, Jr.; Pramila Jayapal; Mark Takano; Judy Chu; David Trone; and Jim Costa.
 
A copy of the legislation can be viewed here.