(CNN)President Joe Biden signed into law on Thursday a bill that is aimed at countering a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the legislation is part of the nation’s first step toward unity.
“I believe, with every fiber of my being, that there are simple, core values and beliefs that should bring us together as Americans. One of them is standing together against hate, against racism — an ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation,” Biden told a group of advocates, agency officials and a bipartisan group of lawmakers inside the East Room of the White House. “Today I can say that because of all of you … you’ve taken that first step.”
In a sign of progress toward more normalcy since the start of the pandemic, Thursday’s bill signing marked the first time a large group publicly gathered inside the White House unmasked since the start of the Biden administration.
The legislation, called the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, will create a new position at the Justice Department to expedite review of potential Covid-19-related hate crimes and incidents reported at the federal, state or local level.
It will also direct the Justice Department and Health and Human Services to work with community-based organizations to issue guidance raising awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic, and would require the attorney general to issue guidance to work with state and local law enforcement agencies to establish online reporting of them.
The legislation passed in the Senate with an overwhelming 94-1 vote in April. And earlier this month, the House voted 364-62, with all the no votes being Republicans. The bill was introduced by New York Democratic Rep. Grace Meng and Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono.
During his remarks on Thursday, Biden thanked Democrats and Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for the passage of the bill. He also thanked the families of Heather Heyer and Khalid Jabara for their contributions to the legislation.
The President recalled his visit to Atlanta in the wake of a ser
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