Letter to the Hon. William Barr, United States Attorney General - Rep Lieu Leads 150 Member Letter Urging DOJ to Condemn COVID-Related Anti-Asian Discrimination


By: Gwen Moore, Ron Kind, Mark Pocan, Denny Heck, Adam Smith, Kim Schrier, Pramila Jayapal, Derek Kilmer, Rick Larsen, Peter Welch, Gerry Connolly, Jennifer Wexton, Don Beyer, Jr., Abigail Spanberger, Marc Veasey, Colin Allred, Eddie Johnson, Pete Olson, Joaquin Castro, Al Green, Dan Crenshaw, David Cicilline, Mary Scanlon, Madeleine Dean, Dwight Evans, Brendan Boyle, Brian Fitzpatrick, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Marcia Fudge, Eliot Engel, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Adriano Espaillat, Carolyn Maloney, Max Rose, Jerry Nadler, Hakeem Jeffries, Nydia Velázquez, Grace Meng, Gregory Meeks, Dina Titus, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Don Payne, Jr., Bill Pascrell, Jr., Frank Pallone, Jr., Joshua Gottheimer, Andy Kim, Annie Kuster, Alma Adams, Emanuel Cleaver II, Ilhan Omar, Betty McCollum, Dean Phillips, Angie Craig, Brenda Lawrence, Andy Levin, Chellie Pingree, Jamie Raskin, David Trone, Anthony Brown, Ayanna Pressley, Katherine Clark, Joe Kennedy III, Jim McGovern, Cedric Richmond, John Yarmuth, André Carson, Cheri Bustos, Lauren Underwood, Bill Foster, Brad Schneider, Jan Schakowsky, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Danny Davis, Chuy Garcia, Bobby Rush, Ed Case, Rob Woodall, Lucy McBath, Hank Johnson, Jr., Donna Shalala, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Sr., Kathy Castor, Darren Soto, Ted Yoho, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Eleanor Norton, Jahana Hayes, Rosa DeLauro, John Larson, Jason Crow, Joe Neguse, Juan Vargas, Harley Rouda, Alan Lowenthal, Lou Correa, Katie Porter, Mark Takano, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Gil Cisneros, Linda Sánchez, Karen Bass, Jimmy Gomez, Grace Napolitano, Brad Sherman, Adam Schiff, Judy Chu, Jimmy Panetta, Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo, Ro Khanna, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Barbara Lee, Mark DeSaulnier, Jerry McNerney, Ami Bera, Doris Matsui, Mike Thompson, Jared Huffman, Ted Lieu
Date: July 20, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

Dear Attorney General Barr:

Thank you for featuring the quote "Coronavirus is no excuse for hate" on the Department of Justice's hate crimes website. The COVID-19 pandemic affects all Americans and has wrought enormous pain in the United States. Some Americans are facing increased discrimination as a result of the pandemic. We write to draw particular attention to an increase in verbal and physical attacks as well as discrimination towards Asian Americans who have been wrongly blamed for the virus' spread. We respectfully request that you publicly condemn acts of anti-Asian bias, and provide us with regular status updates regarding the steps the Department of Justice is taking and will take going forward to combat this behavior.

Asian Americans are not responsible for the spread of coronavirus in the United States; yet, since the start of the pandemic they have experienced continued harassment, violence, and discrimination. As of June 3, the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council reported 2,066 incidents of coronavirus-related discrimination. These and numerous news reports have documented cases ranging from the denial of services at stores to verbal harassment on the subway to physical assaults.

In one particularly egregious instance, an individual in Texas stabbed three Asian Americans, two of whom were children, because he thought they were infecting others with COVID-19. In March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Houston field office acknowledged the likelihood of a surge in hate crime incidents against Asian Americans.And most recently, a new Ipsos survey conducted for the Center for Public Integrity found that more than 30 percent of Americans have witnessed someone blaming Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic.

We appreciate the op-ed the Department placed in the Washington Examiner generally stating that hate crimes will be investigated and prosecuted. However, the dangers faced by the Asian American community today are very real and deserve a strong and specific response by our government. In fact, on May 8, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights acknowledged its concerns "over the increase in xenophobic animosity toward Asian Americans (and perceived Asian Americans) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic" and unanimously issued recommendations urging federal agencies reduce this sentiment.

We note that in the early 2000s during the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, the Bush Administration immediately took steps to prevent discrimination against Asian Americans by creating a community outreach team to monitor and document acts of anti-Asian bias and engage with the community.

Two years earlier following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Administration had similarly sought to prevent attacks against Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian American communities by engaging with community leaders, conducting coordinated civil rights enforcement, and speaking out forcefully. While these prior responses were not perfect, they represented an important effort to acknowledge and address the specific discrimination.

Despite the fear present within the community, each and every day Asian Americans help to combat COVID-19. While Asian Americans comprise 7 percent of the U.S. population, 17.1 percent of active medical physicians are Asian American. Similarly, Asian Americans are serving our country by working as nurses, health aides, and in many other essential occupations. Asian Americans are just as American as any other group of people in our country.

We respectfully request that you, as head of the Department of Justice, forcefully condemn anti-Asian bias to send an unambiguous message to all Americans that discrimination against this community is un-American and will not be tolerated. Further, we would ask that you update us regularly as to what steps the Department has taken to address our concerns. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.