Indian-American civil rights organizations welcomed President Joe Biden signing into law the Covid-19 Hate Crime Act.
Sim J Singh, senior policy and advocacy manager at the Sikh Coalition, welcomed the law adding an online hate-crime reporting system. It will be be great for the communities of color which face a language barrier as well as a culture barrier in communicating with law enforcement, he said.
“To curb hate crimes, we need accurate data. Having this data will help to identify the prevention strategies required to keep our communities safe,” Singh told indica News.
He also welcomed the passage of the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act along with the Covid-19 Hate Crime Act that was signed Thursday by President Biden. The NO HATE Act was named in honor of two victims, Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer, whose murders were prosecuted as hate crimes but not appropriately included in hate-crime statistics.
“This marks the first necessary step towards resolving the longstanding problem of hate in our nation,” Singh said, referring to the Jabara-Heyer Act.
He said it was made possible after years of advocacy by civil rights organizations.
The Sikh Coalition was among the first organizations to support the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act when it was first introduced in 2019, and again when the new Congress reintroduced it in April 2021.
Singh said that the Sikh Coalition also offered inputs in language that was added to the law.
Highlighting the rise in hate crime after 9/11, said, Singh said the Sikh Coalition has always advocated for better hate-crime reporting and victim support services. And since the FBI started collecting hate-crime data in 2015, anti-Sikh hate crimes have seen, on average, a year over year increase exceeding 100 percent.
“We are now documented by the FBI as the top five most targeted faith group,” Singh said. “What we know from our own reporting that shocking figure still only captures fraction of the hate-crime that Sikhs experience in the United States.
“Our organization has been advocating for a long time for the need to prove hate-crime reporting data because data is going to help determine what policy are being effective and what is not,” he said.
“The passage of today’s law is the first step in understanding that data and acknowledging hate-crime to law enforcement but we have a long way to go.
“We need to see more training in hate-crime initiatives. We need to see stronger enforcement of hate-crime laws and we need also to make sure that loopholes in the deferral law are fixed, mixed murder hate-crime be persecuted as well,” Singh said.
Often, he said, law enforcement may not fully understand that bias might be a motive because it might not be apparent.
He agreed that the Indianapolis FedEx warehouse shooting was a case in point.
“The Sikh community there was targeted,” Singh said. “We hope that law enforcement in Indianapolis complete their investigation soon and announce whether bias was a factor in their investigation.”
In general, he said, hate-crime laws have also “not been prosecuted to full extent and that they need to be and that has to change.”
The new law, Singh pointed out, “does not talk about prosecution but this bill focuses on improving hate-crime reporting. So, once we start to get better data then we can start to work on better improving on hate-crime prosecution, rehabilitation initiatives.”
Samir Kalra, managing director, Hindu American Foundation, applauded “Congressional leaders and President Biden for passing and signing into law this important bipartisan legislation.”
“The bill squarely confronts the anti-Asian and anti-Indian sentiments that have been rising in America and which is exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Kalra said. “Out of all that hate and negativity was born a good, positive piece of legislation that all Americans can be proud of, especially Asian Americans.
“We’re pleased to report that this legislation also includes the Jabara-Hayer NO HATE Act, for which HAF has advocated for many years,” Kalra said.
“Today’s achievement is the result of years of hard work by several civil rights organizations and we are grateful to have been a voice for Hindu Americans in the process.”
Sruti Suryanarayanan, research & communications associate at South Asian Americans Leading Together(SAALT) told indica News, “While we are pleased to see a stronger response and acknowledgment of hate violence that is driven by racist policy and rhetoric from the government, we hoped that the lessons of the Movement for Black Lives would guide our policy makers to find solutions that do not continue to reply on increased law enforcement,”
In 2020, there was a dramatic increase in hate crimes and violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and according to a recent report, there were nearly 3,800 reported cases of anti-Asian discrimination and incidents between March 19, 2020 and February 28, 2021 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Signing the bill, Biden said: “My message to all those of you who are hurting us, we see you. And we are committed to stopping the hatred and the bias.”
Vice President Kamala Harris said: “Racism exists in America. Xenophobia exists in America. Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, it all exists. This bill brings us one step closer to stopping hate, not just against Asian Americans, but for all Americans.”