President Biden on Thursday signed into law legislation intended to combat hate crimes against Asian Americans after months of reports of bias incidents and attacks in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
The legislation instructs the Department of Justice to designate a point person to speed reviews of hate crimes related to COVID-19 and encourages more accessible reporting of hate crimes.
“I believe with every fiber in my being that there are simple core values and beliefs that should bring us together as Americans,” Mr. Biden said at a signing event at the White House. “One of them is standing together against hate, against racism — [the] ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation.”
“Today, I can say that because of all of you … you’ve taken that first step,” the president told lawmakers on hand to watch the ceremony.
Vice President Kamala Harris, whose mother was from India, likewise thanked the lawmakers for passing the bill and said the work is only beginning.
“Here is the truth: racism exists in America. Xenophobia exists in America. Antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia — it all exists,” Ms. Harris said. “And so the work to address injustice, wherever it exists, remains the work ahead.”
The House easily passed the measure this week after it had sailed through the Senate.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii Democrat, and Rep. Grace Meng, New York Democrat, had announced the original legislation shortly before eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed in a string of shootings at Georgia spas in March.
Ms. Hirono and Ms. Meng were among a bipartisan group of lawmakers who were slated to attend the ceremony on Thursday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine were two Republicans on the guest list.
Ms. Hirono has credited Ms. Collins, who helped write the legislation, as being instrumental in the push.
“I am proud to have worked closely with Senator Hirono to strengthen and improve this legislation, which both denounces hate crimes directed at the AAPI community and marshals additional resources toward addressing and stopping these despicable crimes,” Ms. Collins said in a statement.
The legislation links a “dramatic increase” in hate crimes and violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the COVID-19 crisis last year.
The virus was first discovered in Wuhan, China in late 2019 before spreading around the globe.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this story.
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