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Joe Biden signs anti-Asian hate crimes bill into law

President Joe Biden signed the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act into law on May 20 (Pictures: Getty Images/AP)

President Joe Biden has signed into law an anti-Asian hate crimes bill aimed at combating a spate of violence against the racial group seen during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act directs the Department of Justice to expedite its review of coronavirus-related violence and create channels to report incidents online. It also provides grants to states to set up hate crime reporting hotlines and calls on the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to issue a guidance raising awareness on the spike.

Speaking from the White House on Thursday afternoon, Biden shared what he and Vice President Kamala Harris saw when they went to the Atlanta area following a series of March mass shootings at Atlanta area spas in which six of the eight victims were Asian women.

‘We heard how too many Asian-Americans have been waking up each morning this past year genuinely fearing for their safety just opening the door and walking down the street,’ Biden said. ‘We see you and we are committed to stop the hatred and the bias.’

Harris, who is the first Asian-American and black vice president, noted that the legislation will expedite the Justice Department’s review of not only anti-Asian hate crimes but all hate crimes.

‘This bill bring us one step closer to stopping hate not only for Asian-Americans but for all Americans,’ Harris said.

The legislation went to Biden’s desk after the House of Representatives passed the measure on a 364-62 vote on Tuesday. Last month, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill on a 94-1 vote.

House Democrats this week said the bill will help prevent hate crimes by informing the Asian-American community on ways to report incidents.

‘Those of Asian descent have been blamed and scapegoated for the outbreak of Covid-19, and as a result, Asian Americans have been beaten, slashed, spat on, and even set on fire and killed,’ said Representative Grace Meng of New York, who introduced the bill along with Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. ‘The Asian American community is exhausted from being forced to endure this rise in bigotry and racist attacks.’

The nonprofit organization Stop AAPI Hate recorded 6,603 hate incidents from March 2020 to March 2021, but leaders believe the figure is much higher with many attacks going unreported. Attacks across the nation have ranged from beatings on the street to the Atlanta spas massacre.

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