Crowley, Over 100 Members of Congress Urge Stronger Action to Protect Sikh, Hindu, Arab-American Communities from Hate Crimes

Mar 21, 2013 Issues: In the Community

Ahead of FBI Advisory Policy Board meeting, lawmakers express strong support for adding new categories to hate crime data collection

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Reps. Joe Crowley (NY-14), Eliot Engel (NY-16), Bill Pascrell (NJ-9), Michael Honda (CA-17), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Gary Peters (MI-14), Judy Chu (CA-27), Ami Bera (CA-7), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), along with 97 Members of the House of Representatives, sent a letter to an FBI advisory board to express strong support for an initiative to begin tracking and quantifying hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab-Americans.  The Advisory Policy Board, which plays a leading role in decision-making on hate crimes documentation, will soon meet to review the issue of whether these categories should be added to hate crimes forms used by the FBI and Department of Justice. 

These groups have all too often been the victim of violent and deadly attacks, and many are targeted with violence for reasons attackers chillingly claim are related to hatred. Unfortunately, anecdotal and non-government data indicate that the commission of hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arab-Americans has become a deadly problem: the massacre at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and the murder of Hindu Senando Sen on the New York City subway – along with attacks across the United States – underscore the severity of the issue. In fact, according to community surveys in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, approximately 10 percent of Sikh-Americans felt they had already been a victim of a hate crime. Attacks on persons or property in Michigan and elsewhere add urgency to these concerns.

“Given the scale of the problem and that these discrete communities are so acutely susceptible to hate violence in the United States, we urge the Advisory Board to support adding these three categories to the existing HCSA data collection mandate for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. We also believe that doing so will encourage affected community members to report hate crimes to law enforcement officials and strengthen relationships between communities, local and state law enforcement, the FBI and the Department of Justice,” write the lawmakers in the letter.

The FBI has been tracking and documenting hate crimes reported from federal, state and local law enforcement officials since 1991 under the bipartisan Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 (HCSA). The Bureau’s annual HCSA reports provide the single best national snapshot of bias-motivated criminal activity in the United States. The Act has also proven to be a powerful mechanism to confront bias-motivated criminal activity, increasing public awareness of the problem and sparking advancements in the response of the criminal justice system to hate violence – in part because in order to document hate crimes, officials are trained to identify and respond to them.

However, while the FBI rightfully tracks hate crimes committed against many groups, there is no federal data collected on hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab-Americans. As a result, hate crimes against these groups may sometimes be categorized as “anti-Muslim,” even though the victims have often been attacked because of their unique identities.

The lawmakers’ letter calls for the FBI to track crimes committed against Sikh, Hindu, and Arab-Americans. At present, the FBI’s Hate Crime Incident Report Form (1-699), which law enforcement officials use to collect data, does not include categories for these groups. The Report Form serves as the primary mechanism for the federal government to document hate crimes committed in the U.S. and is related to the allocation of law enforcement resources to abate such crimes. Excluding Sikh, Hindu, and Arab-Americans in hate crime data collection efforts not only diminishes the safety of these communities, but also weakens the quality of hate crime data overall.

“We are also deeply concerned about this issue because attacks and threats against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs appear to be aimed in part at our nation’s youth. For instance, in one major urban area, a shocking three out of four turbaned Sikh boys reported being harassed and bullied in schools because of their appearance and Sikh identity,” continue the lawmakers.

 This effort is supported by the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Hindu American Foundation, Indian American Forum for Political Education, Sikh Coalition, and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) among other leading national organizations.

To read the letter, please click the link below.