The House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 18, passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which seeks to help combat the increase in anti-Asian hate that has escalated across the nation during the pandemic.
The bill was passed late this afternoon with a vote of 364 to 62. It follows the Senate’s approval of the measure last month by a nearly unanimous and overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 94 to 1. The measure now heads to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign the bill into law.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, who reintroduced the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in March with Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), applauded the House for the passage of the bill.
“I am truly heartened to see so many of my colleagues stand against this bigotry and discrimination,” Meng said. “I commend my colleagues in the House for taking action to combat the despicable and sickening acts of hate and violence against Asian Americans, and for having the Asian American community’s back as we fight this xenophobia and racist attacks.”
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act would establish an office at the Department of Justice to facilitate expedited review of COVID-19 hate crimes, encourage more reporting of incidents of multiple languages, and help make different communities feel more empowered to come forward and report incidents. It would also direct federal agencies to work with community-based organizations to raise awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic.
Those of Asian descent have been blamed and scapegoated for the outbreak of COVID-19, according to Meng, and as a result, Asian Americans have been beaten, slashed, spat on and even killed.
“The Asian American community is exhausted from being forced to endure this ongoing racism and prejudice. Asian Americans are tired of living in fear, and being frightened about their kids or elderly parents going outside,” Meng said. “There have been over 6,600 reported acts of violence, with over two-thirds being reported by women. And those are just the reported numbers. As I have said, everybody in our country deserves to feel safe, and that includes the Asian American community.”
Meng thanked Hirono for partnering with her to sponsor the legislation, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for making the bill’s passage in Congress a reality, and strongly standing with the Asian community during this difficult time. Meng had discussed the legislation this morning with Pelosi and members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), of which she serves as the first vice chair. She also spoke about the bill this afternoon on the House floor.
The Congresswoman has also received support from President Biden, who issued a presidential memorandum in January that included several pieces of legislation that Meng sponsored. Biden had singled out Meng’s leadership after the legislation passed the Senate, and she recently discussed the issue with the president and vice president at the White House.
Last month, Biden in his first address to Congress, thanked the Senate for passing Meng’s bill and called on the House to approve the measure as well, adding that he would sign the legislation into law.
“You can see on television the viciousness of the hate crimes we’ve seen over the past year, and for too long. I urge the House to do the same and send that legislation to my desk which I will gladly, anxiously sign,” Biden said in his speech.