WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law on Thursday after its approval in Congress Wednesday.
Vice President Kamala Harris gave remarks before Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act on Thursday. Harris, the first Black and South Asian woman to hold the office recalled introducing legislation to put an end to anti-Asian violence last year.
"At that time more than 1,100 anti-Asian hate incidents had been reported since the start of the pandemic. Today, that number is more than 6,600," Harris said.
"Racism exists in America," said Harris ahead of Biden signing the bill into law.
"Documented incidents of hate against Asian Americans has seen a shocking spike," Biden said. "Let alone the ones that have never been reported."
The president explained that hate crimes against America’s "most vulnerable" populations "hides in plain sight."
"Too often, it is met with silence," Biden said. "Silence by the media, silence by our politics and silence by our history."
Biden said the new law would provide much-needed training to help law enforcement properly identify and investigate hate crimes. The president also spoke out against hate and called for unity, saying, "We have to change the hearts of the American people."
"Hate can be given no safe harbor in America," Biden proclaimed.
In response to the passing of the bill, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said "today’s bill signing is an important step toward protecting everyone in our country from acts of hate and intolerance."
"This new law will help speed our response to hate crimes and provide resources to law enforcement to improve hate crime reporting. The law will assist law enforcement in targeting its efforts, which will help to prevent these devastating crimes and to respond efficiently and effectively to crimes, when they occur," Garland added.
The Democratic-led House on Wednesday approved a resolution condemning attacks in March that killed six women of Asian descent at Atlanta-area massage businesses, which they characterized as a grim reminder of a surge in violence directed at Asian Americans.
The resolution by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., was approved on a 244-180 vote. It commemorates the eight who were killed and lists them by name, while condemning "any racism and sexism" that motivated the gunman. It also rebuked local law enforcement officers who downplayed the potential that the attacks were a hate crime.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.