New personnel, guidance and grants were announced on Friday.
The one-year anniversary of the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act was on Friday May 20th, and in response the Justice Department announced a long list of actions to take place. The act came about after the rise of violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the pandemic. This couldn’t happen at a better time as just last week a gunman entered a supermarket in Buffalo NY killing so many. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said “as we mourn with the families of the horrific attacks of hate this past week, all of us here today––DOJ, [the Health and Human Services Department] and agencies across the federal government; legislators and other government officials; advocates like Susan Bro and Haifa and Victoria Jabara; civil rights and community-based groups; public health professionals; victim services; and law enforcement partners across the country––we must leverage all of our expertise to combat hate.”
Some of the new actions are Ana Paula Noguez Mercado, a community advocate and interpreter, will be the Justice Departments first ever language access coordinator. Additionally, Saeed Moody, a veteran of the Justice Department, will take over as the Anti-Hate crimes resources coordinator, and Rachel Rossi will move on to director of the recently restored Office of Access to Justice. “Ana will join our Office for Access to Justice where she will work to improve knowledge, use, and expansion of the department’s language access resources,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland during his remarks. “We know that language access is a major barrier to the reporting of hate crimes and hate incidents.”
The Justice Department also issued new guidance that will seek to increase awareness of hate crimes, and also released 10 million in grant solicitations for new programs to handle hate crimes. “This builds on efforts Justice have taken over the past year such as launching the National Anti-Hate Crimes Campaign led by the FBI; assigning at least one assistant U.S. Attorney to be a civil rights coordinator in every U.S. Attorneys’ Office; and “vigorously investigating and prosecuting hate crimes,” said a press release from the department,” (Bublé 22).
The FBI released a report at the end of 2020 stating that hate crimes had reached their highest level in 12 years with 8,263 during that year. Nonreporting and underreporting of hate crimes to the FBI by law enforcement has been a long-standing issue along with hate crimes being handled in another way. Individuals or witnesses are handling things privately or through a non-law enforcement official.
The Justice is investigating last week’s attack in Buffalo as the majority of the victims were black, making it a hate crime and an act that was racially motivated. Garland concluded that this “was a painful reminder of the singular impact that hate crimes have not only on individuals, but on entire communities.”
By: Beth Gray