White House unveils new actions to counter rising anti-Asian violence

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The White House on Tuesday rolled out a series of executive actions aimed at addressing a spike in anti-Asian American hate incidents and in the aftermath of a shooting in Atlanta that killed six Asian American women.

Among the moves is a reinstatement of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which was first established during the Clinton administration, with an expanded mandate and an “initial focus on anti-Asian bias and violence,” including gender-based violence. The Biden administration also vowed to appoint a permanent director of the initiative to coordinate policies across the government.

In addition, the White House announced a new $49.5 million grant program for Asian American and Pacific Islander survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault under the Department of Health and Human Services, a Covid-19 Equity Task Force to address xenophobia against Asian Americans and a Justice Department cross-agency initiative addressing rising hate crimes against Asian Americans.

President Joe Biden’s moves came one week after two Asian American Democratic senators publicly criticized his White House for its meager representation of Asian Americans in senior positions. Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) initially vowed to oppose Biden nominees until the White House offered a more significant plan to address Asian American issues but later said their obstruction would be unnecessary after getting assurances from the White House.

Duckworth applauded Biden in a statement for “recognizing our community’s pain and taking concrete actions to protect AAPI individuals from violence and root out anti-Asian bias while also supporting the victims of hate crimes.”

The new DOJ initiative would also aim to improve reporting of hate crimes. According to a SurveyMonkey/AAPI Data survey released Tuesday, 10 percent of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders had experienced hate crimes or incidents in 2021, compared to a national average of 6 percent of Americans.

The Senate is set to take action next month on a bill from Hirono and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) that would appoint a DOJ official to help expedite the review of Covid-related hate crimes and beef up state and local hate crime reporting. Biden’s Tuesday announcement reiterated his call on Congress to pass that bill, though it faces an uphill climb to becoming law without any Senate Republican support.

Duckworth had dropped her threat to oppose Biden nominees after securing what she described as a commitment for the appointment of a senior White House official focused on Asian American issues. Tuesday’s announcement, however, did not include any details on that official’s portfolio.

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