President Joe Biden signed legislation on Thursday to combat a sharp rise in anti-Asian hate crimes amid the coronavirus pandemic, hailing it as a rare moment of bipartisanship in Washington.
“Every time we’re silent, every time we let hate flourish, we make a lie of who we are as a nation,” Mr Biden said during a signing ceremony at the White House.
The law, which passed both the House and Senate with large bipartisan majorities, directs the Justice Department to expedite a review of coronavirus-related hate crimes and designate an official to oversee the effort.
The bill also funds grants for states to establish hotlines to report such incidents and instructs the federal government to help local law enforcement to publicly report anti-Asian crimes.
“I’m proud today that Democrats and Republicans have stood up together to say something,” Mr Biden said.
Attacks against Asian Americans drew new attention in March after a mass shooting in Georgia left eight people dead. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent.
Anti-Asian hate crime reported to police in the nation’s largest cities rose 169 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period a year prior, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino.
Democrats have blamed former President Donald Trump for encouraging anti-Asian sentiment by repeatedly noting the Chinese origin of the coronavirus when discussing the pandemic.
In addition to frequently referring to the “China virus,” Mr Trump labeled the disease “kung flu” at a campaign rally last June. Mr Trump used the term even after one of his advisers, Kellyanne Conway, had called the term “wrong” and “highly offensive.”
Mr Biden called Trump’s language “casual racism” and “a national scourge” during the presidential campaign.