The US House passed the anti-Asian hate crime bill with a 364-62 vote, with 62 Republicans voting against it. The Bill, pushed by Representatives Grace Meng, Mark Takano and Judy Chu, aims to combat the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.
The bill had already gained acceptance in the Senate last month with an overwhelming 94-1 vote. It is one of the few pieces of legislation to be negotiated and passed through the gridlocked upper chamber, reported USA Today. The bill will now be sent to the President for his signature.
US President Joe Biden has promised to swiftly sign the bill and has maintained that the bill is “one step closer to achieving justice and equality”, The NYT reported.
What Does the Act Provide for?
The legislation, known as COVID -19 Hate Crimes Act, will bring about the following changes.
· It will create a new position at the Justice Department to expedite review of potential COVID-19 hate crimes and incidents reported at the federal, state and local levels.
· It will require the Attorney General to issue guidelines to work with the state and local law enforcement agencies to establish a system of online reporting of these crimes.
· It will direct the Departments of Justice and Human Service to work with various organisations to raise awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic and the guidelines around that.
Need for the Bill
Since the COVID outbreak across the world, there have been several despicable and sickening acts of hate and violence against the Asian-American community, which has been made the scapegoat for the pandemic, said Representative Grace Meng. She took to Twitter to voice her concerns.
According to the Centre for Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian crime reported to the police in 15 of the largest cities in the country rose 169% in the first quarter of 2021 as compared to the first quarter of 2020. The report also mentioned that last year’s spike in such crimes occurred in March and April amid the rise in COVID cases, as WHO declared the crisis a pandemic and political and online stigmatisation of Asians increased.
March 2021 witnessed a series of mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia. Six out of eight people killed were Asians. That incident brought to light the bias against Asian-Americans and the height of injustice heaped upon them.
Opposition to the Bill
Although the bill was eventually passed by the legislature, it did receive some opposition. Republican Chip Roy said, “You can’t legislate away hate.” He voiced his concerns over the effectiveness of such a bill, NBC reported.
Republican Senator Josh Hawey argued that the bill mandated an overly expansive collection of data around hate crimes that could slide into government overreach and thus communicated his opposition to the bill, the NYT reported.
(With inputs from NBC, USA Today and NYT)