WASHINGTON — Hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise and U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, who herself is an immigrant from Japan, wants to do something about it.
This week Hirono introduced legislation that would force the U.S. Justice Department to prioritize and expedite the review of COVID-19 related hate crimes that target Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The bill would also provide more resources to local law enforcement agencies to investigate and combat discrimination and violence against AAPI communities.
An identical measure was introduced in the House by New York Congresswoman Grace Meng, who is of Taiwanese descent.
Among the co-sponsors of the legislation is U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who is a graduate of McKinley High School in Honolulu and the University of Hawaii.
“We’ve seen the horrifying consequences of racist language as AAPI communities across our country experience hate crimes and violence related to the pandemic,” Hirono said in a written statement announcing the legislation.
“The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act addresses the surge in violence against AAPI communities by dedicating an official at the Department of Justice to expeditiously review hate crimes reported to law enforcement. The bill also provides resources for communities to come together and fight intolerance and hate. This is no less than victims deserve.”
Hirono has been outspoken since the beginning of the pandemic about the rise in anti-Asian discimination, and has said that much of it was exacerbated by former President Donald Trump who often referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus” or the “Kung Flu.”
Last month, during an interview on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Hirono cited attacks in New York and California that left at least two people dead.
“When you have Asian Americans afraid to walk down the street for the fear of being knifed, this is an issue that needs to be dealt with,” Hirono said.
Hawaii, which has one of the largest Asian American populations in the country, has not been immune to the violence and discrimination, according to Stop AAPI Hate, a national organization that has been documenting incidents of anti-Asian violence and discrimination in America during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a recent report, Stop AAPI Hate documented more than 2,800 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate between March and December of 2020.
Those incidents were collected from 47 states and the District of Columbia, and included at least nine from Hawaii, including the following encounter that was detailed in the report.
“A man called me a ‘yellow motherf***er’ and told me ‘to go back to where I came from,’” a 67-year-old Honolulu resident reported. “After exiting the elevator, he picked me up by my shoulders and threw me against the elevator bank.”
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