Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Blog
Today, Senators Dick Durbin and Dianne Feinstein released the names of 26 Senators, all Democrats, who signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller to revise the FBI Hate Crime Incident Report Form (1-699) to allow for the collection and tracking of hate crimes committed against Sikhs, Hindus, and Arab Americans. There have been other congressional initiatives to track crimes against Sikhs, but the Durbin/Feinstein letter is the first time Arab Americans have been included. On the House side, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) is seeking signatures for his own letter which includes all three communities.
Currently, federal law enforcement agencies do not track hate crimes aimed at any of these communities. In 2011, Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at DOJ, testified that: “In the first six years after 9/11, the Department investigated more than 800 incidents involving violence, threats, vandalism, and arson against persons perceived to be Muslim or of Arab, Middle Eastern, or South Asian origin. In the decade after 9/11, the Division prosecuted 50 defendants in 37 different cases, obtaining convictions of 45 defendants.” Still, the problem with the way the FBI tracks hate crimes at these communities is simply that they don’t.
In the days leading up the deadline to sign the Durbin/Feinstein letter, AAI sent actions alerts to its members in multiple states, calling on them to urge their Senators to sign on. Signing the letter, we believed, was a no-brainer. Multiple events which led to deaths in these communities, most notably the shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, were evidence that proper attention to these issues is long overdue and that the situation may be getting worse. Senators Durbin and Feinstein are to be praised for their leadership on this extremely important issue.
Nothing should be more important to lawmakers than protecting Americans, especially those who are most vulnerable to violence. Therefore, it is unfortunate that many more Senators (and not a single Republican) chose not to sign on the letter. Protecting citizens is not a partisan issue. We thank all the Senators who did the right thing and signed. The next step is to make sure the Crowley letter gets robust bipartisan support in the House.
Below is a release from Senator Durbin’s office where you can find the list of signatories.
SENATE DEMOCRATS URGE TRACKING OF HATE CRIMES AGAINST SIKH, HINDU AND ARAB AMERICANS
26 Senators Sign Letter to Attorney General Holder and FBI Director Mueller Asking for Revisions in Reporting Hate Crimes
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – A group of 26 Senate Democrats, led by Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller today, asking them to revise the Hate Crime Incident Report to collect data on hate crimes motivated by bias against Sikh, Hindu and Arab Americans. Today’s letter follows up on a promise the Department of Justice made last year to include this data in future reports. The Department’s Advisory Policy Board is currently reviewing these changes and the Senators urged quick adoption of the Board’s recommendation.
“We write to respectfully request that you make three additions to the Hate Crime Incident Report form as soon as possible. In short, we believe that the form should be revised to collect data on hate crimes motivated by bias against Sikh Americans, Hindu Americans, and Arab Americans,” the Senators wrote. “These senseless acts of hate-fueled violence committed against individuals and groups leave a deep impact on the targeted community as a whole. Communities shaken by hate crimes experience widespread fear and terror in the aftermath of bias-motivated crimes. We must continue our efforts to promote tolerance and prevent hate crimes. We can more effectively respond to hate crimes against Sikh Americans, Hindu Americans, and Arab Americans with accurate measurements of those crimes.”
In September of 2012, Durbin chaired a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights examining hate crimes and the threat of domestic extremism. Through an outpouring of written testimony submitted to the Subcommittee for the hearing, a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals agreed that a failure to adequately collect data on hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab Americans made it difficult to know the scope of attacks and to combat hate crimes against these communities.
Today’s letter was also signed by Senators Leahy (D-VT), Schumer (D-NY), Whitehouse (D-RI), Klobuchar (D-MN), Franken (D-MN), Coons (D-DE), Blumenthal (D-CT), Hirono (D-HI), Levin (D-MI), Harkin (D-IA), Boxer (D-CA), Murray (D-WA), Cantwell (D-WA), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Menendez (D-NJ), Cardin (D-MD), Brown (D-OH), Udall (D-NM), Warner (D-VA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Baldwin (D-WI), Heinrich (D-NM), Kaine (D-VA), and Warren (D-MA).