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President Joe Biden is expected to sign a bill Thursday afternoon aimed at curtailing a striking rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a bipartisan denunciation of the spate of brutal attacks that have proliferated during coronavirus pandemic.
The bill, which the House passed on a 364-62 vote, will expedite the review of hate crimes at the Justice Department and make grants available to help local law enforcement agencies improve their investigation, identification and reporting of incidents driven by bias, which often go underreported.
It previously passed the Senate 94-1 in April after lawmakers reached a compromise.
To many Asian Americans, the pandemic has invigorated deep-seated biases that in some cases date back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of more than a century ago.
President Donald Trump repeatedly referred to the virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China, as the “China Virus” or the “Kung Flu.” And as cases of the illness began to rise in the U.S., so too did the attacks, with thousands of violent incidents reported in the past year.
The bill also represented a rare moment of bipartisanship in a Congress that has struggled to overcome partisan gridlock, while underscoring an evolution in Republican thought on hate crimes legislation.
Many conservatives have historically dismissed hate crimes laws, arguing they create special protected classes so that victims of similar crimes are treated differently.
The PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.