On Thursday, April 22nd the United States Senate passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act (S. 937) by a resounding and bipartisan majority with a vote of 94-1. The legislation takes several steps to address hate crimes against Asian Americans, which have risen significantly due to misinformation surrounding COVID-19.
“I am grateful that the United States Senate took action today to protect Asian Americans from discrimination that has become far too common over the past year. Hate crimes are underreported and inflict severe trauma upon our communities. This bill is a positive step to protect Asian American and Pacific Islanders,” said Senator Foung Hawj. “As the U.S. Senate takes action with such bipartisan support, I call on the Minnesota Senate to take action on Senate File 2003. I am a co-author of SF 2003 because I believe we need to strengthen Minnesota’s tracking of hate crimes and combat those crimes through increased penalties and training for peace officers.”
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act takes several steps to combat discrimination and hate crimes against Asian Americans, including expediting the Justice Department’s review of hate crimes, designating an official at the Department of Justice (DOJ) to oversee the effort. The legislation also requires the DOJ to coordinate with and train local law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations to facilitate hate crime reporting and to establish an online hate crime reporting system in multiple languages.
“I’m proud to co-author Senate File 2003, which is a statement that Minnesota welcomes everyone – regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or gender – and takes steps to ensure that every Minnesotan is safe in their community,” said Senator Karla Bigham. “I hope that every member of the Minnesota Senate will join me in supporting our Asian American and Pacific Islander Minnesotans.”
According to an article published in USA Today, the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks hate incidents, received nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents nationwide between March 2020 and the end of the year. In previous years, Stop AAPI Hate tracked approximately 100 incidents per year. 987 incidents were tracked in the first two months of 2021.