September 21, 2022

News West

West Coast News Network

House hearing hits anti-Asian issues after Atlanta shootings

A House Judiciary subcommittee on Thursday heard from lawmakers, experts and advocates about the rise of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For over a year, Asian Americans have been fighting an additional virus of hate and bigotry,” Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) told the committee.

The hearing by the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties was called to address the increasing attacks against Asian Americans in recent months, and was scheduled before Tuesday’s shooting deaths of eight people — including six women of Asian descent — at three Atlanta-area spas. A 21-year-old man has been charged with murder in the shootings.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) began his opening statement by saying the shooting deaths felt “like the inevitable culmination of a year in which there were nearly 3,800 reported incidents of anti-Asian hate.”

Cohen was referring to a report produced by the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate that identified incidents of discrimination against Asian Americans between March 2020 and the end of February 2021. Of the reported incidents, 1,691, or 44.56%, occurred in California.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said the group has sounded the alarm on anti-Asian bias for a year. She said discrimination grew worse when former President Trump and other Republicans began regularly referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus” or “Wuhan flu.” What started as “dirty looks and verbal assaults,” she said, escalated to attacks and violence against Asian Americans.

“The Asian American community is reaching a crisis point that cannot be ignored,” Chu said. “This has become almost a daily tragedy.”

Republican committee members and their witnesses sought to focus the hearing on discrimination in higher education admission practices, or argued the spike in crimes against Asian Americans is part of surge in violence in cities in the last year.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) opened the hearing for Republicans by criticizing the Chinese Communist Party’s handling of the virus. He said he was worried the hearing would be used to police rhetoric and free speech.

“My concern about this hearing is that it seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric in a free society, free speech, and away from the rule of law and taking out bad guys,” Roy said.

Cohen immediately pushed back on the characterization.

“I’d just like to reiterate that while speech is important and has meaning, the incidents I mentioned in my opening statement — being spat at, slapped in the face, lit on fire, slashed with a box cutter and shoved violently to the ground, as the video showed — that’s not speech,” Cohen said.

Meng, the New York Democrat, became visibly angry as she addressed Roy directly at the end of her testimony.

“Your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want, but you don’t have to do it by putting a bull’s-eye on the back of Asian Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids. This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community and to find solutions, and we will not let you take our voice away from us,” she said.

Meng sponsored a resolution last year urging public officials to condemn and denounce anti-Asian sentiment, racism, discrimination and religious intolerance. It passed the House with support from only 14 Republicans.

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