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Feds must do more to stop coronavirus-related discrimination, lawmakers say

A report documented more than 1,100 instances of corona-related discrimination in a two-week period

New York Rep. Grace Meng is the author of a resolution denouncing anti-Asian sentiment rising amid the coronavirus pandemic. California Rep. Mark Takano, right, is one of the 139 co-sponsors.
New York Rep. Grace Meng is the author of a resolution denouncing anti-Asian sentiment rising amid the coronavirus pandemic. California Rep. Mark Takano, right, is one of the 139 co-sponsors.

Democratic lawmakers are raising concerns about a spike in incidents of coronavirus-related discrimination against Asian Americans as President Donald Trump continues blaming China over the pandemic.

The push led by several Democratic lawmakers includes a letter urging the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to provide more guidance to federal agencies, statements of condemnation and a resolution denouncing anti-Asian sentiment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A report released in April by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council documented more than 1,100 instances of discrimination against Asian Americans related to coronavirus in a two-week period.

[Trump’s continued use of ‘Chinese virus’ label puts people at risk, Takano says]

“These reports confirm what we all feared and what we have been hearing from members of the [Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders] community, that the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to a rise in anti-AAPI sentiment and violence,” California Democratic Rep. Mark Takano said in a statement to CQ Roll Call Thursday.

President Donald Trump and several members of Congress at times ignored calls from public health experts and others who have advised against calling novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.”

Democratic senators led by Nevada’s Jacky Rosen sent a letter to the USCCR pointing out there has been scattershot guidance from agencies like the Department of Education urging schools to prevent bullying of students of Asian descent. But Rosen and the other lawmakers said there needs to be a more unified effort across the federal government and making it accessible for Asian Americans with limited English proficiency.

The associate member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus sent the letter signed by 11 other Democrats including Kamala D. Harris, Tammy Duckworth and Bernie Sanders. The letter also said Asian Americans fear personal harassment and warned of a slump in activity in Asian-owned restaurants and businesses.

Harmful stigma

The World Health Organization urges against attaching locations or ethnicity to the disease, arguing it could spread harmful stigma. Now a target of GOP lawmakers including Trump, the organization has been accused of mismanaging the COVID-19 pandemic by not pressing China hard enough for all the information it had.

[Trump’s World Health Organization funding cutoff: It’s complicated]

“There has been a ‘surge’ of reports of incidents of racist and xenophobic verbal attacks and physical assault against Asian Americans to tip lines and news outlets across the country,” Rosen said in a statement.

Rep. Judy Chu, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, called out a Trump tweet from Thursday that was critical of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s February remarks after a meeting with local business owners in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

In the clip, Pelosi can be heard saying “we think it’s very safe to be in Chinatown and hope that others will come,” weeks before the state put social distancing guidelines in place. Trump falsely accused her of deleting the tweet without evidence.

“We don’t have a border with China. Also, the fact that you can’t distinguish between China & Chinese AMERICANS puts Asian American lives at risk,” Chu tweeted. “@SpeakerPelosi
stood with the #AAPI community as you were stoking xenophobia and downplaying the threat from coronavirus entirely.”

Takano a California Democrat who is Japanese American, publicly criticized the president and others’ use of Asian terms to refer to the virus, warning in March it could put Americans in harm’s way.

“This is exactly why we called on President Trump and other political leaders to stop using racist terms like ‘China virus’ to refer to this disease, because it would incentivize and normalize racism and xenophobia against Asian Americans,” Takano said. “One incident of hateful violence against AAPIs is one too many, and it must be forcefully condemned by Congress.”

Takano is one of 139 co-sponsors of a New York Rep. Grace Meng resolution denouncing anti-Asian sentiment rising amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill has one Republican co-sponsor — Bill Posey of Florida.

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