Cantwell Leads Call for Presidential Task Force to Combat Hate Crimes, Violence

13 Senators to Trump: Action must be taken in the face of growing hate violence

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) led a group of 13 Senators sending a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to form a Presidential Task Force to address the alarming rise of hate crimes across many communities in the United States in the last several years.

Hate violence is not new in America, but recent data shows that the problem has deepened. According to the FBI, there were 5,580 hate-related crimes in the United States in 2015. Further, 2016 saw a record 139 violent acts perpetrated against mosques. Jewish centers have been threatened with violence more than 150 times in the first three months of this year alone. Numerous news reports this year have chronicled the vandalizing of Jewish cemeteries and arson against mosques.

The Presidential Task Force would make addressing hate violence a national priority and enlist the help of faith leaders, federal and government agencies, community advocates, law enforcement, and other groups to tackle the problem head-on. The group would analyze the causes of the surge in hate crimes and then determine the best approaches to reverse the trend. 

 “We urge you to establish a Presidential Task Force on preventing and combating hate violence to begin an important national dialogue on how best to counter hate,” wrote the Senators. “There has been an alarming rise in hate violence and threats against religious and racial minorities across the United States. These crimes and threats of violence are unacceptable and are contrary to America’s foundational values of tolerance, respect, and freedom of religion.”

Presidential Task Forces have served as catalysts for social change for decades. In their letter, the Senators suggested using the Presidential Bullying Prevention Task Force as a model. That task force, created in 2014, held listening sessions throughout the country and organized a summit with federal officials and community members, which lead to the development of new outreach strategies to stop bullying in the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community and the creation of online resources for the affected communities.

The Senators noted that there are real people and communities being harmed behind these alarming hate crime statistics. In early March, a Sikh American man was shot and wounded in Kent, Washington. His assailant shot the man in his driveway, yelled “go back to your country,” and has yet to be identified or captured. As we begin our national dialogue, stories like this must be front and center. 

Soon after the shooting in Kent, Senator Cantwell held a roundtable meeting with faith leaders to discuss hate crimes response. At the event, the leaders told her that communities needed more resources to prevent and respond to hate crimes and more support to collaborate with law enforcement, lawmakers, and other organizations.

Joining Senator Cantwell in signing the letter were Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

A full copy of the letter can be found HERE.