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WATCH: Sen. Ossoff Presses DOJ for Updates on Implementation of Laws to Protect Asian American Communities from Hate Crimes

Next Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta spa shootings

Sen. Ossoff helped pass the bipartisan “COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act” last year

Sen. Ossoff also highlights his work to increase access to government services in other languages

Washington, D.C. — Nearly one year after the Atlanta spa shootings, U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff is continuing his work to protect Asian American communities from the rise in hate crimes.

Today in a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Ossoff asked Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the DOJ, for updates on the Department’s implementation of the bipartisanCOVID-19 Hate Crimes Act passed last year to strengthen partnerships with local law enforcement and prevent hate crimes against Asian American communities.

“March 16 will mark the one-year anniversary of the devastating massacre that took place in my state at three Asian-owned small businesses, killing eight, including six Asian American women. Following that event, Congress united to pass legislation to empower the Department of Justice to strengthen its efforts to work with local law enforcement and prevent such hate crimes,” Sen. Ossoff said. “What progress has the Department made in implementing that law and in responding to the ongoing elevated level of threat targeting Asian Americans across the country?”

Clarke told Sen. Ossoff that the DOJ has increased resources to combat hate, expedited review of hate crimes, and designated specific coordinators in U.S. Attorney’s offices to fight hate.

Sen. Ossoff also raised his work to increase access to government resources in multiple language to help communities report crimes and receive assistance, and Clarke said the DOJ has prioritized removing such barriers.

“One of the challenges that these incidents clarified is the difficulty that immigrant communities can have accessing the justice system or reporting incidents … I wrote a letter to the Attorney General recently asking him to direct Federal agencies to update their language access plans — to ensure that not just in the context of justice administration at the Department of Justice, but also in the context of all services provided by Federal agencies that everyone in this country, every community in this country, can access information that is vital to communities,” Sen. Ossoff continued.

Click here to watch Sen. Ossoff’s line of questioning:

Sen. Ossoff presses DOJ in Judiciary Committee hearing.

Please find a transcript of the exchange below:

SEN. OSSOFF: “I’d like to ask you a question now about the ongoing efforts to address hate crimes targeting Asian Americans. We’ve seen a significant increase. Next week, March 16, will mark the one-year anniversary of the devastating massacre that took place in my state at three Asian-owned small businesses, killing eight, including six Asian American women. Following that event, Congress united to pass legislation to empower the Department of Justice to strengthen its efforts to work with local law enforcement and prevent such hate crimes. What progress has the Department made in implementing that law and in responding to the ongoing elevated level of threat targeting Asian Americans across the country?”

CLARKE: “Thank you, Senator. Attorney General Merrick Garland has issued a memorandum in May of 2021 that calls for a number of things: Increased resources to combat hate; the expedited review of hate crimes, which is something that we have instituted and prioritized in the Civil Rights Division; the designation of coordinators at U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the fight against hate; the creation of district alliances against hate. We’ve also worked to restore our Community Relations Service and have prioritized the need to provide language access to ensure that no victim is barred from reporting a hate crime because of a language barrier. So there are a number of things that have happened across the Department. And what I can tell you is that in the Civil Rights Division, we have doubled down on standing up to this threat, bringing more prosecutions to hold perpetrators accountable and to ensure that the rights of victims are vindicated.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “One of the challenges that these incidents clarified is the difficulty that immigrant communities can have accessing the justice system or reporting incidents. I know you’ve recently spoken to the importance of language access. I wrote a letter to the Attorney General recently asking him to direct Federal agencies to update their language access plans to ensure that not just in the context of justice administration at the Department of Justice, but also, in the context of all services provided by Federal agencies that everyone in this country, every community in this country, can access information that is vital to communities. Can you speak please to the importance of ensuring that in the court system and throughout the government, there be sufficient resources for immigrant communities to understand these civic services, regardless of whether English is their first language?”

CLARKE: “Incredibly important priority, Senator, for us. We want those who are victimized by hate across our country to reach out and lean on law enforcement, be that local and state law enforcement on the ground or at the Federal level. And one of the things that we have worked to do at the Justice Department is to ensure that language is never a barrier. People can go right now to our reporting portal, and we have the ability to communicate with people in multiple languages, including a number of Asian languages. We want to ensure that every victim and every witness is able to bring forth complaints, because if we don’t hear from them, then we’ll never fully confront and end the crisis of hate crime gripping our country.”

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