Bera and other House Members, advocates welcome federal system to combat hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu, and Arab American Communities | Congressman Ami Bera

Bera and other House Members, advocates welcome federal system to combat hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu, and Arab American Communities

Mar 25, 2015
Press Release
New System Will Track Hate Crimes Against These At-Risk Communities and Provide Resources and Training for Law Enforcement Agents

Today, Reps. Ami Bera (CA-07), Reps. Joe Crowley (NY-14), Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), Mike Honda (CA-17), Grace Meng (NY-06) and John Garamendi (CA-03), along with leading advocacy groups, welcomed the inclusion of Sikh, Hindu, and Arab American communities in the Department of Justice’s hate crimes tracking effort. This is the final step in the long-fought effort to encourage the federal government to finally begin tracking and quantifying hate crimes against these at-risk communities. Recently, the DOJ and FBI updated its hate crimes database and FBI training manual in order to start tracking hate crimes committed against these groups – that system is now fully operational.

The members led a Congressional effort to encourage the Department of Justice and FBI to document hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu, and Arab Americans, spearheading numerous letters to the DOJ and FBI, introducing a Congressional resolution in the wake of the tragic massacre in Oak Creek, Wis., and submitting testimony urging action on hate crimes.

This is of particular importance to Sacramento County. In 2011, two elderly Sikh Americans, Gurmej Atwal and Surinder Singh, were shot while out for a walk in Elk Grove in a suspected hate crime.

“Since the September 11th attacks, too many Americans, especially Sikh, Hindu and Arab-Americans, have been wrongfully subjected to hate crimes and discrimination, including the shooting of two Sikh Americans in my own city. Religious tolerance is a fundamental value of our nation and we must do everything we can to prevent these crimes motivated by bias against a victim’s religious beliefs. That’s why I applaud the Department of Justice and FBI for their formal inclusion of Sikhs, Hindus and Arab-Americans in the FBI training manual and their new efforts to track crimes against these groups. I’ve been calling for these steps since I got to Congress because they’re important to confronting hatred and increasing public awareness about the crimes committed against often-targeted people. This is a big win for these communities, and a huge win for justice,” said Rep. Bera.

“Time and time again, we have seen vicious attacks on members of Sikh, Hindu and Arab American communities. Tracking hate crimes is more than just putting a number in a column – it means giving law enforcement agencies the resources and information they need to help prevent this kind of violence in the first place,” said Rep. Crowley. “This has been a long time in the making and I’m proud to stand with my colleagues and advocates in recognition of this significant milestone. This victory would not have been possible had it not been for the tenacious and tireless efforts of advocates and citizens across the country. We thank the FBI and the Department of Justice for hearing their concerns, as well as ours, and making these important changes that will go a long way in protecting Sikh, Hindu, Arab Americans, as well as many other communities, from hate crimes.”

“Representing one of the most diverse districts in the nation, I understand that our strength is found in that very diversity, but only if we protect the rights of each and every individual,” said Rep. Pascrell. “We know that domestic, home grown terrorism remains a threat, yet several years ago some tried to downplay DHS warning about right wing radicals and hate groups who might be targeting certain immigrant communities. Just because you're Muslim, or a Sikh, or an immigrant doesn't mean you should have to live your life in fear.”

“I’m glad that the FBI’s newly updated Hate Crimes Training Manual includes specific information to help law enforcement agencies address hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu, and Arab Americans. The best tool for preventing these crimes is to find out how, when, and where they are occurring. Better data means better policies and better policing. Since 9/11, Sikhs, Hindus, and Arab Americans have been the unfair targets of many acts of violence. I applaud the FBI for taking steps to protect these groups, prevent crimes against them, and prosecute those who commit them,” said Rep. Honda.

“In 2013, I was among those in Congress who called for separate tracking of hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab Americans, and I’m pleased that the FBI has made it fully operational. This is an unfortunate, ongoing issue for these communities – where in just the last few months – an Islamic Center, a Hindu temple, two multiple Muslim families, and an Indian grandfather were all targets of hate. I hope that the community will feel more comfortable coming forward and reporting incidents so that we can track the true extent of this problem. I also want to applaud Congressman Crowley for his hard work on this issue,” said Rep. Meng.

“Our nation values freedom from fear. However, far too many people in communities across America, including Sikhs, are the targets of violence, bullying, and bigotry. By expanding the tracking of hate crimes, the Department of Justice, FBI, and civil rights groups can better understand and more effectively combat this hate. We must reaffirm our shared belief that every American deserves the opportunity to live out the American Dream,” said Rep. Garamendi.

“After 9/11, there was more than a 300% increase in hate crimes in California alone – mostly against Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Americans. These are crimes of the worst kind that make entire communities fearful. The FBI’s recent updates to the hate crimes database to include these affected groups combined with its new training guidance will improve reporting and build a bridge of trust between law enforcement and these communities. These improvements will bring us one step closer to an America where all are welcome to raise their families in peace,” said Rep. Chu.

“Until now, Anti-Sikh hate crimes were not recognized by the FBI,” said Rajdeep Singh, Director of Law and Policy at the Sikh Coalition. “Year after year, Sikh Americans were being targeted for harassment and violence because of their distinct identity. For the first time, the FBI now officially acknowledges that Sikhs are targeted for being Sikhs. While refinements are needed to the agency’s tracking system and training standards, we are making progress.” 

“The new FBI hate crime training manual is the sin­gle most impor­tant, most inclu­sive hate crime train­ing resource avail­able for law enforce­ment officials. We never would have gotten to this day without the leadership of Rep. Crowley and other Members of Congress – who have been so persistent and so tenacious in working on this issue. But even the best training manual is irrelevant unless it is used. We look forward to working with Rep. Crowley and other Members to promote programs and training for law enforcement officials to ensure that the new manual will be circulated widely and used,” said Michael Lieberman, Washington Counsel, Anti-Defamation League.

"The federal tracking of anti-Hindu, anti-Sikh, and anti-Arab hate crimes is an important, if long-overdue, development. Even as our community grows, Hindu Americans remain uniquely vulnerable to harassment, bullying, and violence. On this historic day, I'd like to remember Sunando Sen, a Hindu from Rep. Crowley’s home state of New York, who was murdered in a NYC subway station because of his faith. While this tracking comes too late for Sunando, it can help ensure that hate violence is combatted effectively in the future. The Hindu American Foundation looks forward to working with members of Congress, our coalition partners, and the FBI to build on this important step, and ensure that all Americans, regardless of their faith, can live safe and free,” said Harsh Voruganti, Associate Director of Public Policy, Hindu American Foundation.

“The release of the updated FBI Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual, a reform Sikh Americans and SALDEF have advocated towards for half a decade, marks a step towards ensuring accurate reporting of hate crimes committed against Sikhs, an important step that will ultimately aid the Sikh community as we continue to address the roots of anti-Sikh bias. We appreciate the support and leadership of Rep. Joe Crowley and other members of Congress on this issue,” said Jasjit Singh, executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF).

“South Asian Americans Leading Together commends the relentless efforts of the elected officials and fellow civil rights organizations at today’s press conference in ensuring that the FBI hate crimes training manual was updated to include Arab, Hindu, and Sikh categories. This is more important now than ever with the recent spike in hate violence targeting our communities. Our work ahead will be to ensure our communities are informed of these critical updates and are able to build trust with law enforcement so that hate crimes targeting South Asians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Middle Easterners, and Arabs are appropriately documented and prosecuted,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of Policy and Advocacy, South Asian Americans Standing Together (SAALT).

In March 2013, the group again led a letter signed by over 100 members of Congress to the FBI Advisory Policy Board to express strong support to begin tracking and quantifying hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab-Americans. Subsequently, the Advisory Board recommended that the FBI begin collecting this information. Two years later, the DOJ has formalized its hate crimes tracking mechanism and FBI training manual, used by law enforcement agencies across the country, to include guidelines for tracking hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu, and Arab Americans.