Lawmakers call for end to anti-Asian violence: "The more we educate the community, the more allies we have."

Since the start of the pandemic, hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been on the rise, even as an estimated two million AAPIs serve on the frontlines as health care workers and first responders. California Congresswoman Judy Chu joins CBSN's "Red & Blue" anchor Elaine Quijano with more on why she's joining forces with leaders from the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to demand legislation to address the uptick in racism and violence.

Video Transcript

ELAINE QUIJANO: Since the start of the pandemic, attacks against Asian-Americans have been on the rise fueled in part advocates say by political rhetoric surrounding the virus even as an estimated two million Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders or AAPIs serve on the front lines as health care workers, first responders, and in other critical roles. According to the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate, they were nearly 3,000 incidents of discrimination between March and December of last year. That included over 900 discrimination and harassment incidents in California alone New York City's hate crimes task force investigated 27 such incidents in 2020, a nine-fold increase from the year before. And advocates say those numbers are likely underreported.

The recent uptick in violence also includes a surge of attacks against Asian-American elders. Earlier this month, an 84-year-old Thai man died after he was shoved to the ground by a stranger in San Francisco. Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu of California joins me now. She is chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Congresswoman Chu, welcome. Thanks very much for being with us.

JUDY CHU: Thank you for having me.

ELAINE QUIJANO: So last month, as you know, President Biden denounced anti-Asian bias in an executive memorandum. Now you are seeking to meet with Justice Department officials to follow up. What is it specifically that you'd like to see?

JUDY CHU: We want to talk to the Department of Justice on ways that we can engage the AAPI community but also ways in which we can ensure the prosecution of these crimes. Even though we've had some of the perpetrators caught-- for instance, the 84-year-old who was murdered did have his perpetrator caught and arrested-- there are far too many crimes where the person has not been caught.

And so we need a concerted effort on dealing with that. We also need better ways to have hate crimes reported. Right now our system is very flawed. And that's why we are also urging the passage of the No Hate Act in Congress, which would improve that reporting significantly.

ELAINE QUIJANO: So let's talk more a bit about that. So you are calling on Congress to pass the No Hate Act. You're also, though, working to build a bipartisan AAPI caucus. First of all, tell us the main purpose of that bill. You touched on it a moment ago. And I'm wondering what kind of Republican support you're seeing on this issue.

JUDY CHU: Yes. The No Hate Act would seek to improve our crime reporting system. Right now there is a federal law passed in 1990 that said that hate crimes should be reported on a federal level. But actually, they rely on the reporting of local jurisdictions. And the ability to report by those local jurisdictions varies widely. Some don't report at all. In fact, there are three states that don't even have a hate crime statute in place.

So what this bill would do is to improve the implementation of a hate crime reporting system. But it would also provide resources so that local jurisdictions can put together programs that can combat hate crimes and also provide for hate crime hotlines. And it would have the US Attorney General report to Congress on what the status is of hate crime reporting on a year-to-year basis.

Now, this bill in the last Congress had 15 Republican cosponsors. So that was very encouraging to us because it is a bipartisan bill. And it was in fact in the Heroes Act, which did pass out of the House, but did not pass the Senate. Nonetheless, we are hopeful that we can get this No Hate Act out of the House and that we can gather the necessary Republican votes in the Senate to get this signed into law.

ELAINE QUIJANO: We said at the top, Representative, that in fact advocates believe these numbers are severely underreported. And I wonder what some of the cultural and logistical challenges to gathering data on hate crimes might be when it comes specifically to AAPI communities.

JUDY CHU: The AAPI community doesn't know what to do when they have such a hate crime. They-- many of them are not aware of the hate crime reporting sites. And that's why we are out here talking in the media and in the community about these reporting sites such as Stop AAPI Hate. The community members are concerned about such things as whether such reporting will be confidential and whether it could come back to hurt them.

So we have to really assure them that this is the important thing to do, that, first of all, it is confidential. But also, they could actually get resources because people that are staffing these-- these websites are actually helping people. And also, the most important thing is that people will know that they are not alone, because I think the worst thing that could happen, once you are the victim of a hate crime or incident, that you think that you're all alone in the world and that you are the only one who is affected by this. So we want to make sure that our community gets the resources that it needs to be able to report and to get the resources that they so-- so much deserve.

ELAINE QUIJANO: As you know, Congresswoman, the issue of race here in the United States of America has a very long, painful, complicated history. And in a recent op-ed for "The New York Times," an Asian-American professor at Princeton University raised the question about the complexity of speaking up for Asian-Americans whom she described as being, quote, "caught in a no-win position between whites and Black Americans."

Now as she put it, quote, "the central though often unspoken question underlying all of this is, are Asian-Americans injured or injured enough to deserve our national attention?" Representative, you recently held a news conference with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Why did you want to include members who aren't of Asian descent?

JUDY CHU: It was so important for us to join together. And I was so gratified because the members of the tricaucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus, immediately said [AUDIO OUT] against this anti-Asian hate crime surge that's going on. And in fact, of course, Speaker Pelosi also joined us. And at that point in time, we touted the fact that President Biden had issued his executive order condemning that anti-Asian violence. And thus, it gave us the support that we needed to combat this.

It is so important that we educate the entire community about what is happening. Because the more we educate the community, the more allies that we have, that will stop this kind of terrible violence from occurring. And in fact, we so strongly believe that not only should AAPIs feel comfortable in reporting these hate crimes but also that bystanders can play an important role in stopping this kind of violence.

Whether it is through documenting these kind of crimes or whether it is through direct interventions if it is safe, they can do so much to make sure that these don't happen. And in fact, there have been incredible rallies across the United States that are multi-ethnic where people have stood together and said this kind of Asian hate crime is not acceptable. And they must stop.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Unfortunately, it's a story that is continuing. And we are going to continue to follow it here on CBSN. Congresswoman Judy Chu, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it.

JUDY CHU: Thank you.