Sen. Maize Hirono (D-Hawaii) introduced the bill last month, officially titled the “COVID19 Hate Crimes Act,” based on a year’s worth of rising attacks following the pandemic coming out of Wuhan, China. Five days after Hirono introduced the legislation, eight people were killed, including six women of Asian descent, in mass shootings at three Atlanta spas. The crime heightened the pressure on Congress to respond to the rise in attacks against the Asian American community.
With Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) as the lead House sponsor, the legislation would assign an official in the Justice Department to review and expedite all reports of hate crimes related to the coronavirus, expand support for local and state law enforcement agencies responding to these hate crimes, and issue guidance on mitigating the use of racially discriminatory language to describe the pandemic.
Republicans at first hesitated to adopt a position on the legislation, which carefully avoids any mention of former president Donald Trump’s comments about the “Kung Flu” and “the China virus” as possible inspiration for attacks on Asian Americans — but the inference is easily understood.
In a rare bipartisan compromise, negotiators agreed to add a broader bill, the “No Hate Act” sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), to provide federal funding to conduct broader studies about the number of hate crimes every year.