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Queens lawmaker hails Senate passage of COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act

File photo courtesy of Rep. Grace Meng's office

Congresswoman Grace Meng on Thursday, April 22, hailed the Senate’s unanimous passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which seeks to help combat the rise in anti-Asian sentiment related to the coronavirus. 

The legislation, which Meng reintroduced last month with Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), was approved with bipartisan support in the Senate receiving a vote of 94-1.

The bill would create a position at the Department of Justice to facilitate expedited review of COVID-19 hate crimes, encourage more reporting of incidents in multiple languages, and help make different communities feel more empowered to come forward and report these incidents. It would also direct federal agencies to work with community-based organizations to raise awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic.

“We’ve all heard the sickening stories and seen the horrifying videos of Asian Americans being beaten, slashed and spat on. Today, the Senate said enough is enough, and underscored loud and clear that there is no place for hate anywhere in our society,” said Meng, who applauded every senator for passing the bill, which iss a bold step in taking action to combat the ongoing hate and violence against Asian Americans. “More reporting of hate crimes will provide us with increased data and a more accurate picture of the attacks that have been occurring against those of Asian descent, and a more centralized and unified way of reviewing these crimes would help to address the problem in a more effective manner.”

As Asian Americans were targeted in her district in Queens, Meng lauded the outpouring of support from rallies held in communities across the borough to stop Asian hate. She had encouraged everyone to step up and speak out against the unprovoked attacks that had resulted in growing fear and anxiety in the community.

“I have heard from so many Asian Americans who tell me that they are scared to walk outside,” Meng said. “Families won’t let their kids go to the park or play outdoors. People are urging their parents and grandparents to stay inside, telling them that they’ll run their errands and deliver groceries to them. Being forced to endure this terror and fear is unconscionable and unacceptable. Everybody in our country deserves to feel safe, and that includes the Asian American community.” 

Meng thanked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for shepherding the measure through the Senate and securing its overwhelming bipartisan support. Schumer took to Twitter announcing the passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. 

“The Senate just delivered a powerful message by passing @MazieHirono’s and @RepGraceMeng’s COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to #StopAsianHate,” Schumer said. “Racism and violence against Asian American’s has no place in our society.”

The House is expected to take up Meng’s legislation in May, during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. 

In addition to the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, Meng has spoken out and worked tirelessly for more than a year to fight the spike in hate and racist attacks against Asian Americans. She became a victim of anti-Asian bigotry when she received several racist and hate-filled messages on her office voicemail, after her resolution was passed in the House in September 2020 denouncing the increased xenophobia and violence against Asian Americans.

Several pieces of legislation Meng sponsored was included in President Biden’s presidential memorandum and she delivered an emotional testimony before an historic House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the rise of intolerance and discrimination towards Asian Americans. The Congresswoman also traveled to Georgia following the recent mass shooting at Atlanta-area spas and joined Mayor Bill de Blasio in February to discuss her efforts to combat anti-Asian hate.  

“Everybody in our country deserves to feel safe, and that includes the Asian American community. Again, I commend the Senate for moving our COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act closer to the finish line, and I now look forward to the House swiftly following suit,” Meng said. 

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