Biden Announces Actions to Combat Anti-Asian Attacks


Attorney General Merrick B. Garland told Justice Department employees on Tuesday that the rise of reported hate crimes required “renewed energy and emphasis on investigation and prosecution, increased community outreach and the improved collection of data critical to understanding the evolving nature and extent of hate crimes.”

As part of the Justice Department’s 30-day review, officials will also consider how prosecutors can use civil penalties to address acts of bias that do not rise to the standard of a hate crime. Hate crime charges can be difficult to prove in court.

In some states, including New York, prosecutors need to show that victims were specifically targeted because of their race. Experts have said that establishing such a motive for attacks against Asians is even more challenging because there is no widely recognized symbol of anti-Asian hate, such as a noose or a swastika.

“Hate crimes persist and continue to have a toxic effect on our society,” Mr. Garland wrote in a memo.

Many Democrats have suggested that President Donald J. Trump bears some responsibility for the surge in anti-Asian attacks. They say Mr. Trump fanned anti-Chinese sentiment in particular throughout the pandemic last year, calling the coronavirus the “China virus.”

The Biden administration’s response won praise from members of Congress, including Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, who along with Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois criticized the administration last week for lacking Asian representation at its highest levels.

“Racism is never far below the surface in our country, which is all too evident as the A.A.P.I. community has experienced escalating attacks and targeted violence during the pandemic,” Ms. Hirono said, referring to Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. “We must confront the systems that have allowed this hatred to fester and spread, and today’s clear demonstration of presidential leadership is a critical step forward.”

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Janice Hill

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