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Biden Announces New Steps To Tackle Anti-Asian Violence And Discrimination

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Photo by Drew Angerer Getty Images

President Biden delivers remarks on the administration's COVID-19 response on March 29.

The White House on Tuesday announced a half-dozen new actions in response to attacks and harassment that Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the United States have faced increasingly over the past year.

"Across our nation, an outpouring of grief and outrage continues at the horrific violence and xenophobia perpetrated against Asian American communities, especially Asian American women and girls," the White House said in a statement.

"As President Biden said during his first prime time address, anti-Asian violence and xenophobia is wrong, it's un-American, and it must stop."

The White House said Biden will appoint a permanent director to lead coordination of policies across the federal government — a request made by many community advocates.

Included in Tuesday's announcement, which builds on January's Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, are directives to:

  • Reestablish the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, with an initial emphasis on ending anti-Asian bias and violence
  • Increase funding for AAPI survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Establish a taskforce to address coronavirus-fueled xenophobia against Asian Americans
  • Establish a cross-agency Justice Department initiative to investigate anti-Asian violence. This includes expanding the number of languages available for translation on the agency's hate crime website and training state and local law enforcement officials on how to report hate crimes
  • Launch federal projects to celebrate contributions of Asian Americans to the country
  • And fund National Science Foundation research on discrimination and xenophobia

"Racism is never far below the surface in America, which is all too evident as the AAPI community has experienced escalating attacks and targeted violence during the pandemic," Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, wrote on Twitter in response to the news.

"We must confront the systems that allowed this hatred to fester and spread—exactly what @POTUS is doing."

Hirono, who is of Japanese descent, recently joined Democratic Senate colleague Tammy Duckworth of Illinois in calling on Biden to appoint more Asian Americans to his Cabinet. The two had previously threatened to vote no on any non-diverse nominee that came to the Senate, but last week changed their position based on Biden's pledge to add a senior liaison to the community in exchange for their votes.

During Tuesday's White House press briefing, a reporter noted that the fact sheet for the new directives does not address the demand for more representation at the leadership level. Press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that the administration has committed to naming a "high-level ... member of the AAPI community to a position in the White House, and that's something we're working to do through consultation with a range of officials and elected officials as well, and that person will be a commissioned officer and will be working on both policy and outreach."

She said they did not have a name for that role yet.

Psaki added: "In the coming weeks the administration will meet with AAPI leaders to hear their input on how we can play the most constructive role possible in the community."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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