A group of Democratic senators have said that there has been a surge in the hate crime against the Asian-Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic and urged the Trump administration to take concrete steps to arrest the spike in such incidents.
In a letter to Assistant Attorney General Eric S Dreiband, the 16 senators, including first Indian-origin senator Kamala Harris, requested the Trump administration to address this discrimination like it had been done in the past.
The senators said hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) during the pandemic and the inadequate federal response to address these racist and xenophobic attacks is a sharp break from the efforts of past administrations, Republican and Democratic alike.
There are more than 20 million Americans of Asian descent and two million AAPI individuals are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, as health care workers, law enforcement agents, first responders, and other essential service providers, they said.
“It is critical that the Civil Rights Division ensure that the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans are protected during this pandemic,” the senators said. In the last month alone, Asian American organisations received nearly 1,500 incidents of anti-Asian harassment and discrimination against AAPI individuals across the country, they said.
This comes after the FBI assessed in March that hate crime incidents against Asian Americans were likely to surge across the country, endangering AAPI communities, the Democratic senators said.
They said on March 14 this year, a man stabbed two Asian American children — aged 2 and 6 — and their father at a Sam’s Club in Texas because “he thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with the coronavirus.”
Despite warnings that using offensive and stigmatising language to refer to COVID-19 could stoke anti-Asian bias, President Trump and his administration’s officials have referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus”, “Wuhan Virus”, and at least one White House official even called it the “Kung Flu”, the lawmakers rued.
“Such harmful rhetoric contradicts guidance by public health experts,” they said. The World Health Organization’s guidance in naming infectious diseases warns against using names that stigmatize certain communities, the senators said.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention also recognizes the “stigma and discrimination that can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality”, they said.