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WASHINGTON, April 23 -- The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill on Thursday to curb crimes against Asian-Americans amid a spike in hate crimes against the group during the COVID-19 pandemic, reported Anadolu Agency.
The 94-1 vote saw only Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri voting in dissent with five lawmakers not casting a vote. It will now head to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signalled support.
"Asian Americans across the country have been the victims of a surge of discrimination and racially motivated violence," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a series of tweets, later calling the vote "a powerful message."
"Racism and violence against Asian Americans has no place in our society," he added.
The bill follows the March 16 shootings at Asian-owned massage parlours in the Atlanta, Georgia area that killed eight people, including six Asian women. There has also been a wave of violent attacks targetting Asian-Americans in incidents that span the country after COVID-19 spread from China in 2019.
The bill directs the Justice Department to designate an employee to lead an expedited review of COVID-19-related hate crimes, and provides guidance to state and local police agencies to establish an online reporting system for victims to report hate crimes or incidents, and asks them to expand public education campaigns.