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Biden signs bill aimed at reducing AAPI hate crimes

President Joe Biden
Posted at 9:19 AM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 15:29:30-04

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a bill into law Thursday that will increase federal resources for investigating hate crimes, particularly hate crimes committed against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

In emotional remarks prior to its signing, Biden recounted how Asian Americans have been forced to deal with the fears of both COVID-19 and the hate from fellow Americans in the past year.

"All of this hate hides in plain sight. Too often it is met with silence," Biden said, later calling racism an "ugly poison" in America.

He also touted the bill as a rare instance of bipartisanship in a political era fraught with polarization.

"I'm proud today of the United States," Biden said. "I'm proud today of our political systems, the United States Congress. I'm proud today that Republicans and Democrats have stood up together."

During Thursday's remarks, Biden recognized the families of Heather Heyer and Khalid Jabara, for which the bill is named.

Heyer was killed while counter-protesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. Jabara was murdered in 2016 by his next-door neighbor in an attack that was later ruled a hate crime.

The bill was introduced in March after a dramatic increase in the number of attacks and level of violence against the AAPI community following the emergence of the coronavirus, first detected in China.

Stop AAPI Hate, an advocacy group, reported earlier this year that there were nearly 4,000 cases of hate instances against Asian Americans in the U.S. between March 2020 and February 2021 — more than 10 a day.

The law assigns an official at the Justice Department to review and expedite reports of hate crimes related to the coronavirus. It also expands support for local and state agencies responding to and investigating hate crimes and creates guidance for agencies across the country on reducing racially discriminatory language.

The House of Representatives passed the bill in a 364 to 62 vote on Tuesday. Earlier this year, the Senate passed the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support with a 94 to 1 vote.