President Joe Biden’s moves came one week after two Asian American Democratic senators publicly criticized his White House for its meager representation of Asian Americans in senior positions. Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) initially vowed to oppose Biden nominees until the White House offered a more significant plan to address Asian American issues but later said their obstruction would be unnecessary after getting assurances from the White House.
Duckworth applauded Biden in a statement for “recognizing our community’s pain and taking concrete actions to protect AAPI individuals from violence and root out anti-Asian bias while also supporting the victims of hate crimes.”
The new DOJ initiative would also aim to improve reporting of hate crimes. According to a SurveyMonkey/AAPI Data survey released Tuesday, 10 percent of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders had experienced hate crimes or incidents in 2021, compared to a national average of 6 percent of Americans.
The Senate is set to take action next month on a bill from Hirono and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) that would appoint a DOJ official to help expedite the review of Covid-related hate crimes and beef up state and local hate crime reporting. Biden’s Tuesday announcement reiterated his call on Congress to pass that bill, though it faces an uphill climb to becoming law without any Senate Republican support.
Duckworth had dropped her threat to oppose Biden nominees after securing what she described as a commitment for the appointment of a senior White House official focused on Asian American issues. Tuesday’s announcement, however, did not include any details on that official’s portfolio.