US Senate votes to open debate on anti-Asian American hate crimes bill


People participate in a protest to demand an end to anti-Asian violence in New York City on April 4, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - The US Senate voted Wednesday with sweeping bipartisan support to open debate on an anti-Asian American hate crimes bill, clearing a key hurdle to its final passage vote in the chamber.

The evenly-split Senate voted 92-6 to move forward debating on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, a bill drafted by Democrats that intended to speed up administrative processing of hate crimes, which the Asian American community has seen a skyrocketing surge during the pandemic.

"I'm so glad that our Republican colleagues have voted with us to proceed with this legislation. This was never intended as gotcha legislation. It was always intended as bipartisan legislation," Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said after the vote.

Under the bill, the Justice Department would be required to designate an official to review COVID-19-related hate crimes, as well as to coordinate with local law enforcement and community-based groups to facilitate and raise awareness about hate crimes reporting.

The bill would also call on the federal administration to offer guidance on "best practices to mitigate racially discriminatory language" describing the coronavirus pandemic.

Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has started negotiating a deal on amendments to the bill, local media reported, noting the first amendment vote is expected to be on a bipartisan bill called No Hate Act, which aimed to improve the reporting of hate crimes, beef up hate crimes training for law enforcement and set up a hate crimes hotline.

Schumer said on Wednesday that there was bipartisan interest in moving forward with such an amendment, adding he and McConnell are making "good progress" on reaching a deal on "sensible, germane and constructive amendments."

Without a deal, the Senate debate over the bill could easily stretch into next week.

Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono, who introduced the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act bill, said on Wednesday that in total about 20 amendments have been filed so far, though some of them "have absolutely nothing to do with the bill."

"We're working with the Republican leader to determine if and how many other amendments to the bill there will be, so that we can consider them and vote on final passage without any gotcha or not-germane amendments," said Hirono.

Some Republican senators criticized that Democrats had advanced the bill directly to the Senate floor without going through committee first. They also expressed concerns that the bill's focus on COVID-related hate crimes might be too narrow.

According to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based nonprofit social organization tracking incidents of violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the pandemic, it received nearly 3,800 reports of attack or abuse against people of Asian descent between March 2020 and February 2021.

"Too often, we've turned against one another," U.S. President Joe Biden said in his first prime time address earlier in April. "Vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans, who have been attacked, harassed, blamed, and scapegoated. At this very moment, so many of them, our fellow Americans, they're on the frontlines of this pandemic, trying to save lives, and still, they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America."

Protesters of different colors and ages took to the streets in more than 60 cities across the United States after the shootings killing six Asian American women and two others in Atlanta in March, calling to stop anti-Asian violence which has stoked fear and anger across the Asian American community in the country.

华盛顿——美国参议院周三以压倒性的两党支持投票,就一项反亚裔美国人仇恨犯罪法案展开辩论,为参议院最终通过该法案扫清了一个关键障碍。

势均力敌的参议院以92票对6票推进了对《新冠肺炎仇恨犯罪法案》的辩论。该法案由民主党起草,旨在加快对仇恨犯罪的行政处理。在这场流行病期间,亚裔美国人社区目睹了仇恨犯罪的激增。

“我很高兴我们的共和党同事和我们一起投票支持这项立法。这绝不是意在达成立法。参议院多数党领袖查尔斯·舒默在投票后说。

根据该法案,司法部将被要求指定一名官员审查与新冠肺炎有关的仇恨犯罪,并与当地执法部门和社区团体协调,以促进和提高对仇恨犯罪报告的认识。

该法案还将呼吁联邦政府就描述冠状病毒大流行的“减轻种族歧视语言的最佳做法”提供指导。

据当地媒体报道,舒默和参议院少数党领袖米奇·麦康奈尔(Mitch McConnell)已开始就该法案的修正案进行谈判,并指出第一次修正案投票预计将针对一项名为《无仇恨法案》(No仇恨法案)的两党法案,该法案旨在改善仇恨犯罪的报道,加强对执法人员的仇恨犯罪培训,并设立一条仇恨犯罪热线。

舒默周三表示,两党都有兴趣推进这样一项修正案,并补充说,他和麦康奈尔在就“明智、恰当和建设性的修正案”达成协议方面取得了“良好进展”。

如果没有达成协议,参议院对该法案的辩论很容易延续到下周。

提出《新冠肺炎仇恨犯罪法案》的民主党参议员马齐·广野周三表示,到目前为止,总共已经提出了大约20项修正案,尽管其中一些“与该法案完全无关”

Hirono说:“我们正在与共和党领导人合作,确定该法案是否会有其他修正案以及还有多少修正案,以便我们可以考虑这些修正案,并在没有任何误解或不相关修正案的情况下就最终通过进行投票。”

一些共和党参议员批评说,民主党人没有先经过委员会就直接将法案提交参议院。他们还表示担心,该法案对COVID相关仇恨犯罪的关注可能过于狭隘。

据总部位于加州的非营利社会组织“停止AAPI仇恨”称,该组织在2020年3月至2021年2月期间收到了近3,800份攻击或虐待亚裔人士的报告。该组织追踪大流行期间针对亚裔美国人和太平洋岛民的暴力事件。

美国总统乔·拜登(Joe Biden)在4月初的第一次黄金时段讲话中表示:“我们经常相互对立。”。“针对亚裔美国人的恶性仇恨犯罪,他们遭到攻击、骚扰、指责和替罪羊。此时此刻,他们中的许多人,我们的美国同胞,他们站在这场流行病的前线,试图拯救生命,但他们仍然被迫生活在恐惧中,因为他们的生命只是走在美国的街道上。”

今年3月,亚特兰大发生枪击事件,造成六名亚裔美国妇女和另外两名女性死亡,此后,美国各地60多个城市的不同肤色和年龄的抗议者走上街头,呼吁停止反亚裔暴力活动,这种暴力活动在美国亚裔社区引发了恐惧和愤怒。


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