House passes bill to counter anti-Asian hate crimes, sending it to Biden’s desk for his signature

grace meng nancy pelosi anti-Asian hate crimes bill
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) looks on as Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) speaks during a news conference with House Democrats and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus on the “Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act” on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 18, 2021.

  • The House passed legislation on Tuesday to address the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.
  • The bill passed the chamber in a 364-62 vote.
  • The Senate approved the bill last month. It now heads to Biden’s desk for his signature.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The House on Tuesday passed a bill that addresses the rise in violence and discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lower chamber approved the legislation, called the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, in a 364-62 vote.

The bill directs the Department of Justice to expedite the review of coronavirus-related hate crimes, provide guidance to state and local governments to improve public reporting on hate crimes, and raise awareness about hate crimes during the public health crisis.

Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of New York, who championed the bill, said it makes clear that hate against Asian Americans is “unacceptable” and “will not be tolerated.” The legislation also demonstrates that “Congress has the Asian American community’s back,” she added.

“An attack on the Asian American community is an attack on all of us,” Meng said during a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

The bill’s passage comes after the Senate overwhelmingly approved it 94-1 last month in a rare bipartisan effort. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri was the lone “no” vote, arguing it was “too broad.”

The bill now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. Biden has previously expressed support for the legislation and condemned hate crimes against AAPI communities in an executive order during his first week in office.

The federal government has been under pressure to respond to the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic. The nonprofit group, Stop AAPI Hate, has reported 6,603 incidents of physical assault, shunning, verbal and online harassment, and civil-rights violations against AAPI communities in the US from March 2020 to March 2021.

Meng and fellow Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii introduced the legislation in March in the wake of a mass shooting at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The deadly attack sparked national outrage over the uptick in anti-Asian violence coinciding with the spread of COVID-19 across the country and former President Donald Trump elevating terms such as “Chinese virus” and “kung flu.”

During a hearing on the bill in March, Meng accused Trump and other Republican officials of “putting a bull’s-eye on the back” of Asian Americans by regularly using inflammatory rhetoric about the pandemic.

“Those of Asian descent have been blamed and scapegoated for the outbreak of COVID-19 and as a result Asian Americans have been beaten, slashed, spat on, and even set on fire and killed,” Meng said on Tuesday. “We are here today to say that Congress is taking action.”

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Less than 1% of US elected leaders are Asian American, despite making up more than 6% of the US population

President Joe Biden speaks with Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Mazie Hirono, Mark Takano, Rep. Judy Chu, and Rep. Grace Meng during a meeting with members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Executive Committee at the White House in Washington.
In this April 15, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden, accompanied by from left, Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Mark Takano, D-Calif., Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., and Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., speaks during a meeting with members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Executive Committee at the White House in Washington.

  • Less than 1% of elected leadership in the US are members of the AAPI community.
  • But AAPI individuals make up more than 6% of the population.
  • The statistic was included in a report by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, which investigates diversity in elected leadership.
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Asian American lawmakers make up less than 1% of elected leaders in the US, despite the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders accounting for more than 6% of the nation’s population as of mid-2020.

The statistic was included in a report by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, which investigates diversity and demographic representation in elected leadership. The report was included in an article by Politico on Tuesday.

There are two US senators who are part of the AAPI community – Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. At least 16 US representatives are AAPI individuals.

On a state level, there are more than 150 state legislators in 31 states across the US. One-third of whom are representing majority-white districts, but only 17% representing majority AAPI districts, according to the report.

“The exclusion of Asian Americans from political power mirrors the history of AAPI exclusion and erasure from American society,” Brenda Choresi Carter, the director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign, said in the report. “But AAPI communities are winning visibility and power, and AAPI leaders are winning elections and reshaping politics, from city halls to Congress and the Vice President’s office.”

Strides in AAPI representation in the political sphere were made when Vice President Kamala Harris made history as the nation’s first female vice president, as well as the first vice president who is Black and of Asian descent.

When taking all levels of government into account, the only state whose AAPI elected officials proportionately represent its AAPI population is Hawaii. Madalene Xuan-Trang Mielke said in the report that states with significant AAPI populations – save for Hawaii – AAPI people are underrepresented in elected office.

“As a result, governments are unable to adequately serve vulnerable AAPI communities with cultural competency and with language access,” Mielke continued.

When measuring state legislatures alone, AAPI elected officials begin to mirror that of their AAPI constituents, according to the report. The percentage of state legislators in Hawaii, California, Maryland, and Washington who are AAPI are “relatively close or equal” to their AAPI population, the report read.

However, New Jersey has the fourth largest AAPI population in the US but has two AAPI state legislators, and Nevada has the fifth largest AAPI population and has only one AAPI state lawmaker, according to the report.

“Voters, regardless of party identification, really want to see reflective leadership,” Carter told Politico. “Political power has been concentrated in the hands of white men in the United States since the very beginning. And I think we are seeing the limitations of that.”

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5 key moments from Congress’ hearing about anti-Asian violence in the wake of the Atlanta shootings

rep grace meng
Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.

  • Two days after the Atlanta shootings, the House held a hearing to address anti-Asian violence.
  • One Republican lawmaker pointed the finger at China and invoked a saying glorifying lynchings.
  • Democrats zeroed in on Trump’s rhetoric and witnesses described the US’s history of scapegoating immigrants.
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A House judiciary subcommittee held a hearing Thursday to address discrimination and violence against Asian-Americans. The nonprofit organization Stop AAPI Hate has documented nearly 3,800 incidents of physical assault, shunning, verbal and online harassment, and civil rights violations against the AAPI community in the US since March 2020, when COVID-19 cases began to surge.

In addition to taking place amid a spike in anti-Asian violence across the country, Thursday’s hearing came days after a series of deadly shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women. Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, has been arrested and charged with murder in connection to the shootings.

Here are 5 key moments from Thursday’s hearing

  • Rep. Chip Roy employed whataboutism to point the finger at China.
    • “I think the Chinese Communist Party running the country of China, I think they are the bad guys,” the Texas Republican said. “I think that they are harming people and I think they are engaging in modern day slavery.”
    • What they are doing to Uighurs … what they are doing targeting our country … what they are doing to undermine our national security, and what they are doing to steal our intellectual property, and what they are doing to build up their military and rattle throughout the Pacific, I think it’s patently evil and deserving of condemnation,” he added. “And I think that what they did to hide the reality of this virus is equally deserving of condemnation.”
  • Roy quoted an old saying glorifying lynchings at a hearing about racist violence.
    • All “victims of race-based violence and their families deserve justice,” Roy said. He then tacked on: “There’s old sayings in Texas about find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree. You know, we take justice very seriously, and we ought to do that. Round up the bad guys.”

  • Rep. Grace Meng grew emotional while firing back at Roy.
    • “Your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want, but you don’t have to do it by putting a bullseye on the back of Asian-Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids,” Meng said.
    • The New York congresswoman choked up as she continued, “This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community and to find solutions, and we will not let you take our voice away from us.”
  • Democrats accuse Trump and Republicans of fueling anti-Asian hate by using inflammatory rhetoric about COVID-19.
    • Several Democratic lawmakers skewered the former president and his allies for using terms like “Wuhan virus,” “China virus,” and “Kung flu” to describe the coronavirus pandemic.
    • “As we look at the outrage, let me put into the record: the 45th president always referred to coronavirus as the ‘China virus’ or ‘Kung flu,'” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. “Let me call his name: President Trump.”
    • “The rise of hate crimes against Asian-Americans is inherently tied to anti-Asian American rhetoric, some of which has come out of this very chamber,” said freshman congresswoman Cori Bush. She went on to say that when such rhetoric is used by historically privileged groups, they “have to own that it causes harm to people, especially people of color” because there are “lives at stake.”
  • Witnesses highlighted the US’s long history of scapegoating immigrants and minorities in times of crisis.
    • “As shocking as these incidents are, it is so vital to understand that they are not random acts perpetrated by deranged individuals,” said Erika Lee, a professor of history and Asian-American studies at the University of Minnesota. “They are an expression of our country’s long history of systemic racism targeting Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.”
    • “We have heard in the past 24 hours many describe anti-Asian discrimination and racial violence as un-American,” she added. “Unfortunately, it is very American.”
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