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.
- A torrent of hate and violence against Asian-Americans around the U.S. began last spring, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Community leaders say the bigotry was spurred by the rhetoric of former President Trump, who referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus.”
- In New York, a wave of xenophobia and violence has been compounded by the economic fallout of the pandemic, which has dealt a severe blow to New York’s Asian-American communities. Many community leaders say racist assaults are being overlooked by the authorities.
- In January, an 84-year-old man from Thailand was violently slammed to the ground in San Francisco, resulting in his death at a hospital two days later. The attack, captured on video, has become a rallying cry.
- Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed in the Atlanta massage parlor shootings on March 16. The suspect’s motives are under investigation, but Asian communities across the United States are on alert because of a surge in attacks against Asian-Americans over the past year.
- On March 30, The New York Police Department said it was searching for a man who kicked a 65-year-old woman, stomped on her and made anti-Asian statements.
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.”