LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Some Asian-Americans in Arkansas say they feel a little safer after legislation was passed in the U-S Senate Thursday.
The bill comes as hate crimes against Asian-Americans saw an uptick during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lawmakers approved the measure in a 94-1 vote. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo, was the only member to oppose the bill.
The legislation would direct the Dept. of Justice to expedite the review of hate crimes related to COVID-19 and help law enforcement agencies establish ways to report such incidents online and perform public outreach.
“I’m very happy actually,” said Liem Nguyen.
Liem Nguyen says he is all to familiar with the hate directed towards Asian-Americans in Arkansas.
“I’m still looking over my shoulder and everything just to see who’s around me,” said Nguyen.
Hot Springs Police say back in March, Benjamin Snodgrass, a former Fire Captain in Bentonville, began harassing Nguyen outside of Oaklawn Casino and made threatening remarks.
“He walked back towards us, telling me he’s going to kill me and my kind of people and at that time he put his hands on me,” recalled Nguyen.
Benjamin Snodgrass was charged with misdemeanor third-degree battery and public intoxication for the incident that occurred on March 13.
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act now moves to the House. The Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus of Arkansas says they hope this will send a strong message to others.
“Great to see that happening on the national level and to let folks know in America that we can’t treat people this way,” said Joshua Ang Price, President of the Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus of Arkansas.
The legislation would also direct the attorney general and Dept. of Health and Human Services to issue best-practices guidance on how to mitigate racially discriminatory language in describing the pandemic.
“It’s very encouraging. It takes baby steps sometimes but I think we’re on the right track,” said Price.
Nguyen says he hopes this bill will prevent what happened to him, from happening to others.
“I’m hoping this bill actually passes quick so people will be safer because if it’s not people are going to get hurt more and more,” said Nguyen.