President Joe Biden just signed into law a bill that The Hill says “aims to combat the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.”
Dubbed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, the measure focuses on improving and expediting the federal collection of data related to bias-motivated offenses and boosts federal support for the law enforcement officials investigating them, The Hill reports.
It comes as violent crimes against Asian Americans have increased since the coronavirus pandemic first began in early 2020, but also targets hate crimes against other groups.
“My message to all of those of you who are hurting is we see you and the Congress has said, we see you,” Biden said upon signing the legislation Thursday, according to The Hill. “And we are committed to stop the hatred and the bias.”
“No safe harbor”
Biden also said Thursday that “hate can be given no safe harbor in America.”
“We have to change the hearts of the American people,” the president charged. “I mean it, no safe harbor. It can’t be dismissed, like, ‘Well that’s just what happens.’ … Every time we’re silent, every time we let hate flourish, you make a lie of who we are as a nation.”
Among those present at the signing ceremony, according to The Hill, was the mother of Heather Heyer, who died in 2017 when a white supremacist crashed his car into her during a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Congressional Democrats who supported the measure, including Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, also made appearances.
After a year of hate and racist attacks against the AANHPI community, I’m immensely proud to have helped the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act reach the President’s desk and watch President Biden sign it into law.
We’re not the “other” and hate has no place here. pic.twitter.com/f84hfngRPU
— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) May 20, 2021
Not without controversy
But though the bill was backed by Democrats including its sponsors, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Axios reported last week that some on the left had voiced objections to it.
According to Axios, some progressive “groups say the bill will bolster law enforcement and further harm marginalized people.” One organization said in a statement shared by the outlet that the measure “ignores that police violence is also anti-Asian violence, which has disproportionately targeted Black and Brown Asians.”
Supporters of the legislation claim it will do nothing of the sort, however.
“To the members of our United States Congress on both sides of the aisle who helped pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, thank you,” Vice President Kamala Harris said upon the bill’s signing, according to ABC News. “Because of you, history will remember this day and this moment when our nation took action to combat hate.”