April 19, 2021

Durbin, Booker: Judiciary Committee Democrats Are Committed to Addressing Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

Senators push back on Republican attempts to delay or derail COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act floor consideration

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism, today pressed back on a letter they received from Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism, requesting a Judiciary Committee hearing to address hate crimes and discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in an apparent effort to delay the consideration of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act on the Senate floor.

In their response, Durbin and Booker noted that Senate Democrats have been sounding the alarm about the growing threat of hate crimes and domestic terrorism for years, including the particular threat targeting AAPI Americans and other minority communities.  They also noted that, last month, Durbin held the first oversight hearing of the FBI since July 2019, which focused on the Bureau’s response to the rise of domestic terrorism, including recent violent racist attacks against communities of color and religious minorities.

Additionally, the Senators noted the fact that under Republican leadership during the entirety of the Trump Administration, the Judiciary Committee failed to hold hearings to address these very issues. Notably, Grassley’s and Cotton’s letter comes amidst an unfortunate record of silence by Senate Republicans in response to inflammatory rhetoric by President Trump and other Republican leaders that has fomented violence against the AAPI community.

“We note that you sent your letter only after Majority Leader Schumer filed cloture on Senator Hirono and Senator Duckworth’s bill [COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act],” the Senators wrote in a letter to Grassley and Cotton.  “While we are committed to the Committee’s continued fact-finding work on the appalling rise in hate crimes and extremist violence against AAPI Americans, there is already an ample record that justifies floor action on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, and we will not support efforts to delay or derail its floor consideration.”

The Senators’ letter concluded, “We do appreciate your newfound interest in addressing anti-Asian hate crimes, and we look forward to working with you on legislation and oversight that responds to these vile attacks against the AAPI community.  That work should include passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act without delay.”

Full text of today’s letter is available here and below:

April 19, 2021

Dear Ranking Member Grassley and Ranking Member Cotton:

We received your recent letter requesting that either the Judiciary Committee or Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism Subcommittee hold a hearing to address hate crimes and discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

As you know, we have been sounding the alarm about the growing threat of hate crimes and domestic terrorism for years, including the particular threat targeting AAPI Americans and other minority communities. For example, Chair Durbin held a 2012 hearing in the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights on hate crimes and domestic extremism following the horrific massacre of six worshippers at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, perpetrated by a white supremacist. After the hearing, he led the effort to update the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Hate Crime Incident Report form to include bias crimes committed against Sikh Americans, Hindu Americans, and Arab Americans. 

In 2019, we sent joint letters to then-Attorney General Barr and FBI Director Wray inquiring about Justice Department and FBI efforts to combat white supremacist violence. We have also introduced and cosponsored critical legislation to address this threat, including Chair Durbin’s Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, Senator Blumenthal’s Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, and Senator Hirono and Senator Duckworth’s COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, the bill referenced in your letter. Additionally, last month, Chair Durbin held the first oversight hearing of the FBI since July 2019, which focused on the Bureau’s response to the rise of domestic terrorism, including recent violent racist attacks against communities of color and religious minorities.

We note that you sent your letter only after Majority Leader Schumer filed cloture on Senator Hirono and Senator Duckworth’s bill.  While we are committed to the Committee’s continued fact-finding work on the appalling rise in hate crimes and extremist violence against AAPI Americans, there is already an ample record that justifies floor action on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, and we will not support efforts to delay or derail its floor consideration. 

Unfortunately, under Republican leadership during the entirety of the Trump Administration, the Judiciary Committee failed to hold hearings to address these very issues. Notably, your letter comes amidst an unfortunate record of silence by Senate Republicans in response to inflammatory rhetoric by President Trump and other Republican leaders that has fomented violence against the AAPI community.

We do appreciate your newfound interest in addressing anti-Asian hate crimes, and we look forward to working with you on legislation and oversight that responds to these vile attacks against the AAPI community.  That work should include passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act without delay.

Sincerely,

-30-