WASHINGTON - US Congress on Tuesday approved a bill aimed at combating hate crimes and violence against Asian Americans following a sharp rise in such incidents amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill, which will be sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law, will require the Justice Department to expedite the review of hate crimes and issue guidance aimed at raising awareness against such acts, while enhancing support to state and local law enforcement agencies responding to hate crimes.
"The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act will strengthen our defenses" against attacks targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said prior to the vote at the chamber.
The United States has seen a rise in violent hate crimes and discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans, coinciding with the spread of the novel coronavirus first detected in China in late 2019.
Shocking footage of attacks on Asian people has circulated on social media from time to time and a shooting in the Atlanta area that killed 6 Asian women in March sparked demonstrations across the country against anti-Asian racism.
Over 6,600 incidences of anti-Asian and Pacific Islander discrimination and violence were reported during the year through March in all 50 states in the United States, Pelosi said, adding, "Hundreds more occur unreported in the shadows."
The bill passed the House with a vote of 364 to 62 on Tuesday following a Senate approval in April. It was sponsored by Sen. Mazie Hirono, who was born in Japan's Fukushima Prefecture and immigrated to Hawaii.