Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, listens as Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., center, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, on May 18, on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., listens at right.

Susan Walsh/The Associated Press

Congress approved legislation Tuesday intended to curtail a striking rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, sending President Joe Biden a bipartisan denunciation of the spate of brutal attacks that have proliferated during coronavirus pandemic.

The bill, which the House passed on a 364-62 vote, will expedite the review of hate crimes at the Justice Department and make grants available to help local law enforcement agencies improve their investigation, identification and reporting of incidents driven by bias, which often go underreported. It previously passed the Senate 94-1 in April after lawmakers reached a compromise. Biden has said he will sign it.

“Asian Americans have been screaming out for help, and the House and Senate and President Biden have clearly heard our pleas,” said Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., who helped lead efforts to pass the bill in the House.

Story continues below advertisement

To many Asian Americans, the pandemic has invigorated deep-seated biases that in some cases date back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of more than a century ago. President Donald Trump repeatedly referred to the virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China, as the “China Virus” or the “Kung Flu.” And as cases of the illness began to rise in the U.S., so too did the attacks, with thousands of violent incidents reported in the past year.

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., said it’s painful for many to “open up the newspaper everyday and see that yet another Asian American has been assaulted, attacked and even killed.”

In February, an 84-year-old man died after he was pushed to the ground near his home in San Francisco. A young family was injured in a Texas grocery store attack last year. And in Georgia, six Asian women were killed in March during during a series of shootings targeting workers at massage parlors. Prosecutors are seeking hate crimes charges. The women who were killed are mentioned in the text of the bill.

“You start to think, `Well, will I be next?”' Chu said.

Yet to some activists, including organizations representing gay and transgender Asian Americans, the legislation is misguided. More than 100 groups have signed onto a statement opposing the bill for relying too heavily on law enforcement while providing too little funding to address the underlying issues driving a rise in hate crimes.

“We have had hate crimes laws since 1968, it’s been expanded over and over again, and this new legislation is more of the same,” said Jason Wu, who is co-chair of GAPIMNY-Empowering Queer & Trans Asian Pacific Islanders. “These issues are about bias, but also rooted in inequality, and lack of investment and resources for our communities. Not a shortage of police and jails.”

Meng acknowledged some of the concerns raised by the groups, but countered that the widespread underreporting of hate crimes needs to be addressed.

Story continues below advertisement

“Law enforcement is currently underreporting these kinds of incidents and it makes it easy to ignore hate crimes all together,” she said.

Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, suggested that the surge in Asian American violence was tied to efforts backed by some Democrats and other progressives to decrease funding for the police.

“This violence, by and large, is happening in Democrat-controlled cities,” said Jordan. If “money wasn’t taken from police and they were allowed to do their jobs, we would probably be in an entirely different position.”

Yet the bill also represented a rare moment of bipartisanship in a Congress that has struggled to overcome partisan gridlock, while underscoring an evolution in Republican thought on hate crimes legislation.

Many conservatives have historically dismissed hate crimes laws, arguing they create special protected classes so that victims of similar crimes are treated differently.

“I’m glad Congress is coming together in a bipartisan way,” said Rep. Young Kim, a California Republican who is Korean American. “Let’s also recognize that we cannot legislate hate out of our people’s hearts and minds.”

Story continues below advertisement

Speaking earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said passage of the bill sends a “powerful message of solidarity” to those who have suffered discrimination during the pandemic.

“Discrimination against Asian Americans is, sadly, not a new phenomenon in our nation’s history, but the pandemic brought old biases and prejudices back to the foreground,” the New York Democrat said. “The Senate can be proud it took the lead.”

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies