The Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act
The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act in a rare bipartisan vote (94-1). The bill is aimed at bolstering efforts to combat rising anti-Asian hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The legislation would assign an official in the Justice Department to review and expedite all reports of hate crimes related to the coronavirus, expand support for local and state law enforcement agencies responding to these hate crimes, and issue guidance on mitigating the use of racially discriminatory language to describe the pandemic." — The Washington Post
Following its passage, bill cosponsors Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Representative Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) called for swift House consideration of the bill so President Biden can sign the bill into law. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill in coming weeks.
“Today’s historic, bipartisan vote on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act sends a powerful message of solidarity to the AAPI community—that the United States Senate rejects anti-Asian hate. Now, I urge the House to swiftly pass this legislation so the bill can go to President Biden to sign into law,” Senator Hirono said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Not In Our Town signed on to a letter to Congress urging passage of the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act. You can read the letter at The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights website. The Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act mandates better hate crimes data collection, funding for hate crime hotlines, as well as a more informed approach to hate crime prevention and sentencing at the federal, state, and local levels.
"People need to understand," Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute, said in a recent NIOT podcast. "We cannot adequately address the increase in hate in our country and the violence [that is] getting increasingly violent. It's just not an increase in numbers. It's more violence that we're seeing, from the attacks in Pittsburgh to the attacks in Charlottesville, to the individual cases we're seeing, and to the increase we're seeing now targeting Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. It is a cycle regrettably, and we cannot address it until we have the necessary data."
"This bill makes hate crimes reporting to the FBI mandatory and requires training for law enforcement. Before, there was no requirement that these crimes be reported or investigated. So if a department wasn't trained to report hate crimes or if they didn't have the will or the skill to investigate and report hate crimes, they often ended up reporting zero in their jurisdiction," says Not In Our Town Executive Director Patrice O'Neill. "And there is so much pain and trauma in that gap. There is so much left unaddressed. We don't know all the people that are harmed and, more importantly, we can't see how we can act to solve it."
The Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act
The Jabara-Heyer No Hate Act is named after Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer. It was drafted in response to the fact that their deaths were not recorded as hate crimes in the FBI Hate Crimes index. The bill seeks to promote better hate crimes data collection as well as a more informed approach to hate crime prevention at the federal, state and local levels. (Download a fact sheet: PDF)
Improving Reporting of Hate Crimes
In 2019, more than 86 percent of agencies that participated in reporting hate crimes to the FBI reported zero hate crimes. Helping law enforcement agencies recognize and report detailed information on hate crimes and report that data to the FBI will help establish a clear picture of the threats that vulnerable communities are facing across the country. This legislation will improve reporting of hate crimes by supporting the implementation of and training for NIBRS, the latest crime reporting standard.
Encouraging Law Enforcement Prevention, Training and Education on Hate Crimes
This legislation will provide support to law enforcement agencies that establish a policy on identifying, investigating and reporting hate crimes, train officers on how to identify hate crimes, develop a system for collecting hate crimes data, establish a hate crimes unit within the agency, and engage in community relations to address hate crimes in that jurisdiction.
Establishing Hate Crime Hotlines
The bill will provide grants for states to establish and run hate crime hotlines, to record information about hate crimes and to redirect victims and witnesses to law enforcement and local support services as needed. This will make sure that hate crimes don’t go unreported and victims get the help that they need.
Rehabilitating Perpetrators of Hate Crimes
Judges will be required to order individuals convicted under federal hate crime laws to undergo community service or education centered on the community targeted by the crime.
Educate your community about hate crime reporting and the Jabara-Heyer No Hate Act. Download the NIOT podcast interviews with the family members of Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer, and share them with your NIOT groups, community leaders, and elected officials. They are available on our website and on iTunes here. Host a listening event in your community.