May 04, 2020

Harris, Durbin Press for Emergency Funding to Combat Hate Crimes During COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) on Monday called on Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to ensure that communities have the resources necessary to combat hate-motivated violence following a documented increase in hateful incidents and messages targeting Asian-American and other minority communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes ensuring that any emergency funding for law enforcement include an appropriation of funds under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to assist state and local law enforcement in working with communities to enhance the response to hate crimes.  

“The spread of the coronavirus has been accompanied by a sharp increase in acts of hate targeting the Asian-American community. There has also been a documented increase in hateful messages targeting other minority communities in the U.S. and around the world, including the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and Jews. And just last week, civil rights groups expressed concern about the xenophobic messages within the President’s recent proclamation suspending certain types of immigration, announced by a tweet that purported to connect immigrants to the “invisible enemy” and a threat to American workers,” the senators wrote.

They continued, “To address and respond to these issues, we must ensure that all communities have the resources necessary to combat hate-motivated violence. This includes ensuring that any emergency funding for law enforcement include a long overdue appropriation of funds under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA) to help state and local law enforcement work with communities to enhance the response to hate crimes.”

Joining Harris and Durbin on the letter are Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

This letter has the support of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Human Rights Campaign, Muslim Advocates, Anti-Defamation League, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the James Byrd, Jr. Foundation to Stop Hate at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, and the Democratic Attorneys General Association.

Full text of the letter is available here and below.

May 4, 2020

 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell                              The Honorable Charles Schumer

Senate Majority Leader                                              Minority Leader

United States Senate                                                   United States Senate

S-230 U.S. Capitol                                                     S-221 U.S. Capitol

Washington, D.C. 20510                                            Washington, D.C. 20510

 

The Honorable Richard Shelby                                  The Honorable Patrick Leahy

Chairman                                                                    Vice Chairman

Senate Appropriations Committee                             Senate Appropriations Committee

Washington, DC 20510                                              Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Chairman Shelby, and Vice Chairman Leahy:

The spread of the coronavirus has been accompanied by a sharp increase in acts of hate targeting the Asian-American community.   There has also been a documented increase in hateful messages targeting other minority communities in the U.S. and around the world, including the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and Jews.   And just last week, civil rights groups expressed concern about the xenophobic messages within the President’s recent proclamation suspending certain types of immigration, announced by a tweet that purported to connect immigrants to the “invisible enemy” and a threat to American workers.   To address and respond to these issues, we must ensure that all communities have the resources necessary to combat hate-motivated violence.  This includes ensuring that any emergency funding for law enforcement includes a long overdue appropriation of funds under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA) to help state and local law enforcement work with communities to enhance the response to hate crimes.  

While data from the FBI on hate crimes over the last several months is not yet available, the FBI released an intelligence report expressing concern about an increase in hate crimes targeting communities that might be blamed for the spread of the coronavirus.  On April 20, FBI Director Wray sent a letter to state and local law enforcement officials stating that the FBI remains “concerned about the potential for hate crimes by individuals and groups targeting minority populations in the United States who they believe are responsible for the spread of the virus.”   The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and its partners received more than 1,100  reports of anti-Asian hate incidents over a three week period starting in mid-March.   The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has documented coronavirus conspiracy theories, threatening posts, and calls to action online from white supremacists to target Jews, Muslims, people of color, LGBTQ communities, and immigrants.  

In order to respond, we must ensure that resources are directed toward programs that guarantee the safety of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, or immigration status.  This includes directing funds towards a long overdue appropriation under the HCPA. 

Section 4704 of the HCPA authorized five million dollars from 2010 to 2012 for state and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.  But Congress has never appropriated funds to help states and localities conduct educational outreach and training on hate crimes, or to pay for expenses associated with investigations or prosecutions of hate crimes.  Section 4704 also requires that law enforcement agencies seeking funds “demonstrate that, in developing a plan to implement the grant, the State, local, and tribal law enforcement agency has consulted and coordinated with nonprofit, nongovernmental victim services programs that have experience in providing services to victims of hate crimes.” 

Law enforcement leaders across the country recognize the importance of the kind of consultation and coordination required under Section 4704 of the HCPA.  Appropriating funds for this provision will help promote effective engagement with local community organizations, including civil rights and advocacy groups, which is critical to earning trust and combating hate.  Because of the outsized impact of hate incidents and hate crimes on entire communities, supporting an effective response to hate crimes through this provision also helps to build the community relationships fundamental to effective policing, and to advancing public safety that respects the dignity of all.

Sincerely,

###