- The Department of Justice is prioritizing a review of its handling of anti-Asian hate crimes.
- Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the new effort in a Tuesday statement.
- Garland says he wants the Justice Department to “recommit” to using its resources to combat hate.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Tuesday that the Justice Department would review how to tackle anti-Asian violence within the next 30 days.
The review was announced in a letter from Garland obtained by CBS Chief Justice and Homeland Security Correspondent Jeff Pegues and shared on Twitter by his colleague, CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang.
Garland cited the DOJ’s efforts to prosecute Ku Klux Klan members in its early history, saying, “One hundred and fifty years later, hate crimes persist and continue to have a toxic effect on our society.”
Hate crimes against Asian-American have surged in the last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, and Garland said he wanted the Justice Department to “recommit” to use its resources to combat hate.
Read more: Meet Merrick Garland’s inner circle of 15 officials working to restore the Justice Department’s independence after Trump
He said the Justice Department would consider how it could better track the reporting of hate crimes and hate incidents, prioritize criminal investigations, utilize civil enforcement authorities to ensure bias does not arise, and equip US Attorney’s Offices with resources to protect against hate.
“While this effort remains ongoing, the Department will seek justice for the victims of hate-fueled mass murderers we have seen too many times in the past several years — killings that have shaken our communities, torn at our social fabric, and undercut our most basic values,” Garland said in the statement.
Garland added that he would “continue to deploy” community outreach organizations and civil enforcement power to help prevent further hate crimes. That would include working with state and local authorities to provide bolstered resources to both investigate and prosecute hate crimes and prevent potential hate events before they occur.
In mid-March 2021, a mass shooting targeting massage parlors and spas in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women, brought the rising trend of anti-Asian violence and hate crimes into the national spotlight and onto the radar of Congress, the Biden White House, and law enforcement agencies like the DOJ.
Violence targeting Asians and Asian-Americans has been on the uptick since early 2020 when COVID-19 began to spread around the globe, continuing decades of painful discrimination and violence against people of Asian descent in America.
Insider’s Ryan Barber recently reported that Garland, an experienced federal prosecutor and former longtime judge, is also aiming to restore morale and boost a sense of camaraderie at the DOJ following the tumultuous events of 2020 and 2021, culminating in the January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol.
Also on Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced a number of White House initiatives to combat anti-Asian hate and violence.
They include “reinstating and reinvigorating” the White House’s work with federal agencies to focus on hate crimes. To that end, Biden is redirecting some funds from the American Rescue Plan to create a new $49.5 million grant program to help Asian-American domestic violence and sexual assault victims, and also establishing a new COVID-19 Equity Task Force focused on xenophobia and health disparities.
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