May 6, 2021

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Democrats move to strengthen the prosecution of anti-Asian attacks

Democrats move to strengthen the prosecution of anti-Asian attacks

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are negotiating a modest bill designed to help law enforcement combat the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, a rare time of potential bipartisan compromise on legislation.

The bill would designate a Justice Department official to expedite the review of potential hate crimes against Asian Americans. It would also set up a voluntary database of hate crimes and provide guidelines to help local law enforcement make it easier for people to report crimes.

“For more than a year, the Asian American community has been battling two viruses: the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-Asian hatred,” said Rep. Grace Meng (DN.Y.), the author of one of the drawings. of law. “We must stand up and show solidarity against this intolerance. We must act to combat this xenophobia and violence, and supporting this bill would help us enormously in achieving all these critical goals. “

The legislation, which also condemns violence against Asian Americans, was drafted by Democrats but would need the support of Republicans to overcome an obstruction in the Senate. Some Republicans initially expressed skepticism about the need for additional legislation to address hate crimes, but Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Said on Tuesday that Republicans are working with Democrats.

“Discrimination against Asian Americans is a real problem,” he said, quoting his wife, Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan. “I hope we can work out an agreement to get into the bill in the normal way, have some amendments and move on to the final step.”

The legislation carries significant symbolism in the wake of an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans. For Democrats, it also has additional importance after President Trump, who used derogatory terms to describe the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republicans should allow the bill to reach the Senate as soon as Wednesday without obstruction. “I won’t say it was unanimous, but I felt like there was a lot of interest in getting on the bill,” the senator said. John Cornyn (R-Texas) after leaving a meeting of Senate Republicans.

It would mark a departure from recent years, when the two sides seemed able to come together only during an emergency, such as avoiding a government shutdown or extending relief efforts during the pandemic. But even those efforts are typically battles.

If Republicans prevented the Senate from initiating the bill, it would mark the first time filibuster has been used on a piece of legislation this year.

The debate on the bill comes as Democrats are mounting a case to eliminate or change the filibuster, paying new attention to the procedural tool that the minority party has increasingly used in recent years to block legislation. If the Republicans obstructed the Asian hate crime bill, the Democrats would likely use it to build their case.

“I mean, if you’re going to obstruct this, for God’s sake, don’t tell me it’s an encouraging debate,” the senator said. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Citing the argument of the filibuster advocates claim that the tool encourages bipartisanship by requiring the parties to work together.

It is unclear whether the effort will remain bipartisan. According to Durbin, three Republicans opposed the immediate move of the bill. Republicans have another opportunity to block the bill immediately before final approval, when the Senate requests 60 votes or the support of all senators.

Bipartism will likely depend on the ability of Republicans to table amendments. While it’s unclear what changes they want to see, Republicans have stressed that the legislation will only cover hate crimes related to the COVID-19 pandemic, a restriction they would like to lift.

While Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), one of the authors of the bill, said it was important for her to highlight the link between the language surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, is open to changing the language.

There is also a bipartisan amendment that would address hate crimes more broadly by supporting local law enforcement using a new hate crime reporting tool, encouraging local law enforcement to report hate crimes. hate and by setting up grants for states to run hotlines for hate crimes.

In addition to the appointment of the Department of Justice, the bill would provide guidelines for state and local law enforcement agencies to establish online reporting of hate crimes and incidents in hopes of making it easier to report and combat underreporting. It would help those agencies develop local public education campaigns to collect data on hate crimes in the hopes of preventing and reporting them when they occur.

Claire Jean Kim, a political scientist and professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California Irvine, is skeptical that these bills would fully address anti-Asian racism, adding that addressing social problems, inequality and injustice must be part of the solution.

“All this talk of hate crimes against Asian Americans right now sounds like a superficial and symbolic attitude for political reasons,” he said.

Hirono, born in Japan, is the representative. Andy Kim (DN.J.), who is of Korean descent, said the recent increase has had a profound effect on their lives.

“As a [Asian-American Pacific Islander] person, it makes me think, “Hirono said.” Before, if I was walking outside, wearing earphones, listening to books on tape. I would never do that now because of the totally unprovoked hate crime incidents against AAPIs. ” .

Kim called the month following the Atlanta spa shooting – in which six women of Asian descent, a white woman and a white man were killed – “one of the hardest months of my life.”

“There has never been a situation in my life where I have felt this level of fear and this level of vulnerability, and also the level of isolation I feel right now,” she said.

Times writer Erin B. Logan contributed to this report.


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