Garland Orders DOJ to Examine ‘Disturbing Trend’ in Hate Crimes

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Attorney General Merrick Garland directed Justice Department employees to give priority to investigating and prosecuting hate crimes and incidents, especially a recent outbreak of violence against Asian Americans.

In a memo Tuesday to all department employees, Garland ordered a review to be completed in a month to determine specific steps that can be taken to better combat hate crimes, including prioritizing criminal investigations and prosecutions and tracking and reporting incidents that might violate federal laws.

Garland cited in particular “the disturbing trend in reports of violence against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community” since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Former President Donald Trump often blamed China for what he derisively called the “China virus” and “Kung Flu.”

The attorney general’s directive comes amid an outbreak of violence against Asian Americans. A series of mass shootings on March 16 in the Atlanta metropolitan area left eight people dead, six of whom were Asian women.

It’s also the first major public action that Garland has taken since he became the nation’s top law enforcement officer almost three weeks ago.

“We must recommit ourselves to this urgent task and ensure that the department makes the best and most effective use of its resources to combat hate,” Garland wrote.

The review will determine if the department can better utilize its civil enforcement authorities “to address unlawful acts of bias that do not rise to the level of hate crimes,” according to the memo.

President Joe Biden announced new steps Tuesday in response to anti-Asian violence, including a $50 million grant program for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The FBI also will begin holding “nationwide civil rights training events to promote state and local law enforcement reporting of hate crimes,” according to the announcement.

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