Anti-Asian hate crimes bill, introduced by Hirono, passes Senate with bipartisan support

Senate poised to pass anti-Asian hate crimes bill introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed legislation, introduced by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, addressing a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

The final vote was 94 to 1.

It passed with bipartisan support after some new GOP amendments were added to the bill.

“We will send a powerful message of solidarity to the AAPI community that the Senate will not be a bystander as anti-Asian violence surges in our country,” Hirono said on the Senate floor on Thursday.

The original bill — introduced by Hirono and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y. — assigns a point person at the Department of Justice to expedite the review of hate crimes and work with state and local law enforcement in response efforts.

The amendments would give the Justice Department more time to designate an official to review pandemic-related hate crimes. The amendments also include adding guidance on raising awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic.

Hirono said some of the anti-Asian hate was fueled by people, including former President Donald Trump, who used racist terms like the “China Virus” and “Kung Flu.”

But others say that harms their freedom of speech.

“You may recall after all that last year journalists from such esteemed outlets as CNN, Reuters, the Washington Post and the New York Times all used the terms Chinese virus, Chinese coronavirus, the Wuhan coronavirus,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. “Were they inciting violence? Were they racist? No, of course not. They were following the centuries-old practice of referring to diseases by geographic names.”

The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives.

This story will be updated.

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