Yesterday, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra co-hosted a listening session with stakeholders on the bipartisan COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which was enacted by President Biden on May 20. Under the legislation, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in coordination with the COVID-19 Health Equity Working Group and community organizations, are required to issue guidelines to raise awareness of hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The session was moderated by Deputy Attorney General Vanita Gupta.
In keeping with the efforts of the Biden-Harris administration to combat hate in all its forms, the listening session provided an opportunity for stakeholders, including Americans of Asian, Hawaiian and Pacific Islander origin (AA and NHPI) and other communities and anti-hate advocacy organizations, to provide input to HHS and the Department of Justice on guidance. The diverse set of stakeholders represented the vast impact of increased hatred and prejudice and mutual support among affected communities.
Attorney General Garland and Secretary Becerra opened the listening session by acknowledging that many members of the AA and NHPI communities faced two scourges during the pandemic – COVID-19 and prejudice-motivated violence – and expressed the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to confront both. They then detailed the steps the administration is already taking through their agencies to address these pressing issues.
Attorney General Garland described how he called on the Department of Justice to take action to improve incident reporting, increase law enforcement training and coordination at all levels of government, and prioritize community awareness and better use of civil enforcement mechanisms. These efforts have included increasing investigative resources devoted to civil rights cases, accelerating the ministry’s review of hate crimes, increasing access to languages, and revitalizing the community relations department. .
Secretary Becerra described how the HHS established the COVID-19 Health Equity Working Group, invigorated the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, which is hosted at HHS, and has invested millions of dollars in funding AA and NHPI healthcare entities, among others.
Following opening remarks by Attorney General Garland and Secretary Becerra, Associate Attorney General Gupta moderated a conversation with stakeholders on the increase in hate crimes and incidents across the country, the barriers to reporting such incidents and the guidelines that the Department of Justice and HHS are required to problem include. In response, community organizations highlighted the need for language access to communities, robust reporting systems for hate crimes in federal and state agencies, diverse perspectives on the types and forms of referral that would serve the better affected communities and policy ideas that will help address hate crimes and incidents of stigma as a public health issue, among many others. Secretary Becerra, Attorney General Garland and Assistant Attorney General Gupta closed the listening session by thanking advocacy organizations for their participation, thoughtful dialogue and commitment to advancing justice.
Stakeholders wishing to provide recommendations on the directions are encouraged to submit their public comments to the Department of Justice and HHS at [email protected]