RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Amid an increase in reported crimes targeting Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, supporters of new hate crime legislation urged state lawmakers Wednesday to bring those bills up for a vote.
Members of the Asian-American community called for Republican leaders to hold hearings and votes on bills Democrats have filed aimed at strengthening the state’s hate crime laws.
“If you think we are part of the American family, and we are true Americans, we need your support,” said Edward Binanay, president of Asian Pacific Islander Outreach. “And, I think Democrats and Republicans can work together to stop the racist violence and unprovoked attacks.”
A new report this week by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found there was a 164 percent increase in reported crimes targeting Asian Americans in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2020.
That’s based on data from 16 of the largest cities in the country. Click here to read the report.
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri says one of the key aspects of the bill he filed is that it would require law enforcement agencies to report incidents of hate crimes to the state in order to improve data collection.
His bill also increases penalties for hate crimes and calls for training for law enforcement on recognizing and responding to them.
Similar legislation has been filed in the House.
“We can send a clear message that we’re hearing the concerns of all people, that we won’t tolerate hate, that we won’t tolerate discrimination,” he said.
He has filed similar legislation the last three legislative sessions, but those bills have never had a hearing or a vote.
When asked if he’s ever been given an explanation why, he said no.
CBS 17 recently asked Republican Senate leader Phil Berger about the issue. He said he wanted to study it further but added, “I’ve generally not been in favor of pulling out particular issues like that under the rubric of hate crime legislation.”
When asked Wednesday for further clarity about his position on SB 439, a spokesperson for Berger issued the following statement:
Sen. Berger’s opinion is that people commit violent crimes for many reasons: personal grudge, bias, sexually-motivated behavior, and sometimes just random acts. The physical suffering inflicted on the victim doesn’t change based on that victim’s race or religion. A violent criminal shouldn’t face a more lenient sentence because the victim was of like race or religion. If there’s a movement to enact harsher penalties for violent crimes, then we should adjust penalties for all violent crimes.
Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam talked about the murders of her three friends when they were shot and killed in Chapel Hill. Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Abu-Salha died six years ago after what police initially described as a “parking dispute.”
“Without a strong hate crime statute in place, the department was unable to pursue any charges related to hate crimes or Islamophobia,” said Allam. “I know that passing the bill won’t end hate crimes or end racism, but this bill will provide us the means to properly identify, track, report and respond to hate crimes.”