President Biden is set on Thursday afternoon to sign into law a bill meant to address a proliferation of assaults and other crimes against Asian-Americans since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr. Biden is scheduled to sign the bill at 2 p.m. in the White House, after which he and Vice President Kamala Harris are scheduled to deliver remarks.
Over the last year, more than 6,600 anti-Asian hate incidents have been recorded nationwide, according to the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate. New York had the largest increase in anti-Asian hate crimes relative to other major cities, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
The measure, led by Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, and Representative Grace Meng, Democrat of New York, will establish a position at the Justice Department to speed the agency’s review of hate crimes and expand the channels to report them, in an effort to improve data collection around attacks targeting Asian-Americans. It would also encourage the creation of state-run hate crimes hotlines, provide grants to law enforcement agencies that train their officers to identify hate crimes and introduce a series of public education campaigns around bias against people of Asian descent.
The bill amounts to the first legislative action Congress has taken to bolster law enforcement’s response to attacks on people of Asian descent during the coronavirus pandemic. Experts testified before a key House panel in March that attacks targeting Asian-Americans — many of them women or older people — have increased nearly 150 percent in the past year, with Americans of Asian descent reporting being spat on, shoved to the ground, beaten, and burned by chemicals.
The legislation marshaled a level of support on Capitol Hill rarely seen in the bitterly divided Congress — even on issues as straightforward as addressing a spate of racially motivated crimes.
“This epidemic is a challenge to the conscience of our country,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday as she signed the legislation. “That is why Congress responded swiftly and effectively with the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act.”
Democratic Asian-Americans in Congress earlier in the year had confronted the Biden administration about what they said was an unacceptable lack of representation at the highest levels of his administration, culminating in the administration appointing a senior official to focus on Asian-American priorities. Ms. Hirono and Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois had pledged to withhold their votes on some nominees until Mr. Biden engaged more actively on the issue.
Jessica Chia contributed reporting.