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The House of Representatives voted 364-62 on Tuesday to approve the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, a bill written in response to an increase in anti-Asian violence during the coronavirus pandemic.
All the no votes were cast by Republicans. The Senate approved the bill last month 94-1, with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) casting the only no vote. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it.
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act calls for the assignment of a Department of Justice point person to speed up the review of COVID-19–related hate crimes and to support local and state law enforcement agencies responding to hate crimes, according to a news release from US Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), who co-sponsored the bill with US Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY).
This point person would also work with government agencies “to mitigate racially discriminatory language used to describe the pandemic,” the release said.
“Those of Asian descent have been blamed and scapegoated for the outbreak of COVID-19,” Meng said at a news conference, ABC News reported.
“And as a result, Asian Americans have been beaten, slashed, spat on, and even set on fire and killed. The Asian American community is exhausted from being forced to endure this rise in bigotry and racist attacks. Asian Americans are tired of living in fear.”
Advocates for the bill say the violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders can be traced back to former President Donald Trump calling COVID-19 the “China virus.”
The bill was introduced before the March 16 shootings at Atlanta-area spas that left eight people dead, including six Asian women.
Half of Chinese American parents and their children report having experienced in-person racial discrimination related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to results of a survey released in November.