WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden signed a bill to strengthen hate crime law enforcement Thursday afternoon after it sailed through Congress.
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which the House passed on a 364-62 vote, will expedite the review of hate crimes at the Justice Department and make grants available to help local law enforcement agencies improve their investigation, identification and reporting of incidents driven by bias, which often go underreported.
“Words have consequences… consequences,” said Biden. “Silence is complicity. Silence is complicity. And we cannot be complicit. We have to speak out, we have to act.”
The bill, led by Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono and Congresswoman Grace Meng, comes after a spate of high-profile attacks on Asian Americans. It would also provide guidance for state and local law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes, expand public education campaigns and issue guidance to combat discriminatory language in describing the pandemic.
It previously passed the Senate 92-6 in April after lawmakers reached a compromise.
“Every time we’re silent, every time we let hate flourish, we make a lie of who we are as a nation. I mean it literally,” Biden said. “We cannot let the very foundation of this country continue to be eaten away like it has been in other moments in our history, and happening again.”
More than 100 groups have signed a statement opposing the bill for relying too heavily on law enforcement while providing too little funding to address the underlying issues driving a rise in hate crimes.
“We have had hate crimes laws since 1968, it’s been expanded over and over again, and this new legislation is more of the same,” said Jason Wu, who is co-chair of GAPIMNY-Empowering Queer & Trans Asian Pacific Islanders. “These issues are about bias, but also rooted in inequality, and lack of investment and resources for our communities. Not a shortage of police and jails.”
You can read the full bill below: