The bill signed by Biden, after rare, overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, improves access for reporting such crimes and seeks to smoothen procedures for the authorities to respond.

President Joe Biden signs Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act into law, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US on May 20, 2021.
President Joe Biden signs Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act into law, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US on May 20, 2021. (AP)

US President Joe Biden has signed legislation to curtail a dramatic rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and expressed pride that lawmakers who seem to agree on little else came together against hate and racism.

Biden lavished praise on Democrats and Republicans for approving the bill by lopsided margins and sending it to the White House for his signature. Several dozen lawmakers attended the bill signing ceremony on Thursday, one of the largest groups to visit the Biden White House during the pandemic.

The House approved the bill 364-62 this week, following the Senate's 94-1 vote in April.

Biden, who stressed his wish to help unite the country as he campaigned for office, said during the East Room event that fighting hate and racism should bring people together.

“I'm proud today of the United States,” he said.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono and Democratic Representative Grace Meng, designates a Justice Department employee to expedite a review of hate crimes reported to police during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It would also provide guidance for state and local law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes, expand public education campaigns and issue guidance to combat discriminatory language in describing the pandemic.

Federal grants will be available to help local law enforcement agencies improve their investigation, identification and reporting of bias-driven incidents, which often go under-reported.

Some activists opposed the legislation's reliance on law enforcement.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who is Black and Indian, discussed reports of stabbings, shootings and other attacks against Asian American and Pacific Islander individuals and their businesses since the start of the pandemic a little over a year ago.

Harris said such incidents had increased six-fold during that time.

She said that while the new law brings the US closer to stopping hate, “the work to address injustice, wherever it exists, remains the work ahead.”

READ MORE: Congress passes bill to fight rise in anti-Asian crimes in US

'Long fight'

The AAPI Victory Alliance, a policy and advocacy organisation for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, complimented Biden for quickly signing the bill.

But executive director Varun Nikore said the law is “only one piece in the long fight” for equity and opportunity for communities of color.

Nikore said Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will use the “electoral prowess” they demonstrated last year to elect leaders who will advocate for their community.

“Ending Asian hate should never be a partisan issue,” he said.

The bill-signing scene at the White House was reminiscent of pre-pandemic times, and the bill itself marked a fleeting moment of bipartisanship in a Congress that has struggled all year to overcome partisan gridlock over issues ranging from Covid-19 aid to the definition of “infrastructure.”

READ MORE: Asian-Americans buy more guns amid a surge in hate crimes

Source: TRTWorld and agencies