Washington, D.C. – Today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Representative Grace Meng (D-NY), and Representative Andy Kim (D-NJ) outlined their efforts to pass legislation to address the rise of hate crimes and violence targeted at the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks as delivered, which you can also view here:
I want to thank Senator Hirono and Representative Meng for leading the charge on the legislation. I want to thank Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Kim for coming and lending their great support for this as well.
We all know over the past year there's just been an awful rising tide of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans. It's driven by fear. It's driven by misinformation. It's driven by age-old prejudices, from shouted insults to racial slurs to actual physical assaults.
I attended five or six rallies in New York, while we were on break, and the stories break your heart. An elderly man came over to me and he said I'm afraid to walk down the street in New York City, because I might be ridiculed, cursed at, even spat upon. A young lady told me she stopped going to work because she didn't want to ride the subway because the stares, the hostile stares of people, were so piercing. And then, of course, we've had worse, actual violence.
Every day in America, in this 21st century America, Asian Americans fear that they might be insulted, assaulted, or even worse. Sadly, the recent wave of anti-Asian violence is not a new chapter in American history. The AAPI community has long suffered bigotry and racism in this country.
But we cannot and must not remain silent. And there is a new fervor to speaking out, because there have been so many incidents in the last year or two.
And part of that, I have to say, was because our last president never discouraged, or almost never discouraged, and often seemed to encourage, bigotry from people, and he often led it himself.
In America, an attack on one group is an attack on all of us. So it's now up to all of us to stand up and speak out in support of the Asian American community. And in the Senate, we have more than a responsibility just to speak out, we have a moral imperative to take action. So that's why this week I'm using my power as Majority Leader to make sure the Senate will vote on Senator Hirono’s COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which my fellow New Yorker, Representative Meng, has sponsored in the House.
This commonsense legislation will give the Justice Department crucial tools to crack down on the wave of racist violence we have seen against the AAPI community, and I'll leave it to the sponsors to go over the details.
We are open to strengthening the bill. There's an effort underway to add a bipartisan amendment, sponsored by Senators Blumenthal and Moran, one a Democrat one a Republican, as an amendment, and their bill would provide resources to state and local law enforcement to improve hate crime reporting, increase training, and establish pathways to rehabilitation. So reporting, training, rehab, would be the three words that underlie their amendment.
Now, combating hate in the Asian American community can and should be bipartisan.
The way to do that is for 60 Senators to vote to proceed to the legislation. I hope it'll be many more than 60. Who would oppose this very simple, but necessary legislation? As Majority Leader, as I said, as Majority Leader, it's my intention to make the first amendment a bipartisan one, but I can't do that unless our Republican colleagues allow us to debate the bill.
Make no mistake, the Senate will debate and take action to combat hate crimes against Asian Americans. There is no reason, no reason, this shouldn't be a bipartisan bill that passes the Senate without delay. This is not some kind of gotcha piece of legislation. It’s legislation our times demand. So, President Biden has urged Congress to swiftly pass this legislation and get it on his desk, and we're going to work very hard to get that done this week. And now I'll turn it over to somebody who has fought bigotry her whole life, Speaker Pelosi.