- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced a handful of new actions to protect Asian Americans from violence, including the Justice Department prioritizing prosecutions of anti-Asian hate crimes.

As part of the initiative, the Department of Health and Human Services is allocating $49.5 million from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package to support Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

HHS is also setting up a special subcommittee on a COVID-19 “Health Equity Task Force” to try to mitigate anti-Asian xenophobia and bias in the federal government’s COVID-19 response, according to the White House.

The measures follow reports of increased incidents of violence against Asian Americans and a horrific mass shooting at three Atlanta-area massage parlors that killed eight people, six of them women of Asian descent.

Since the attack, Mr. Biden has taken a forceful stand against hate crimes and been under pressure from Asian-American groups to do more.

The administration’s response also includes new Justice Department efforts to tackle anti-Asian violence, a new virtual library devoted to Asian American history, and research by the National Science Foundation into anti-Asian discrimination.

Attorney General Merrick Garland also ordered a 30-day review to assess the Justice Department’s prosecution of hate crimes and an examination of the department’s ability to track and report hate crimes.

Casting a wider net, he directed prosecutors to consider civil penalties rather than criminal charges to go after incidents of bias that may not rise to the level of hate crimes.

The review will also consider whether additional funding is needed for law enforcement efforts to combat hate crimes.

“While this effort remains ongoing, the department will continue to seek justice for the victims of hate-fueled mass murders that we have seen too many times in the past several years,” Mr. Garland wrote in the memo.

The memo cited the “disturbing trend in reports of violence against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community” since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

A study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the University of California San Bernardino found that hate crimes directed toward Asian Americans increased by nearly 150% between 2019 and 2020. However, the overall numbers remained low with only 122 incidents reported last year compared to 49 in 2019, the study said. The increase came as hate crimes overall declined 7% in 2020.

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