On Thursday (April 22), the Senate passed new legislation denouncing discrimination against Asian communities in the United States.
Lawmakers approved the measure in a 94-1 vote. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley was the only member of Congress to oppose the bill. The legislation, which was introduced by Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono, would “direct the Department of Justice to expedite the review of hate crimes related to COVID-19 that were reported to law enforcement agencies and help them establish ways to report such incidents online and perform public outreach,” according to NBC News.
Under the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, the attorney general and Department of Health and Human Services will be given the best practices on how to reduce racist language while describing the pandemic.
“Racism has always existed in America unfortunately and the legacy of anti-Asian sentiment goes back centuries to dark chapters in our history, like the Chinese-exclusion act and the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday.
“Now, we’ve made great strides since those days, but over the past several years, the forces of hate and bigotry seem to have gained strength, too often encouraged by our former president,” he continued. “By passing this bill, the Senate makes it very clear that hate and discrimination against any group has no place in America. Bigotry against one is bigotry against all.”
Since the pandemic began, anti-Asian hate crimes have increased. In March, several Asian women were shot and killed by a white man during a mass shooting in Atlanta. Just a day later, an elderly Asian woman was randomly attacked by a white man in San Franciso while waiting at traffic light.
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act will now go to the House before being signed by President Joe Biden.