Congressman John Garamendi

Representing the 3rd District of California
Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Garamendi & 100+ Members of Congress Urge Stronger Action to Protect Sikh, Hindu, Arab-American Communities from Hate Crimes

March 23, 2013
Press Release

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

Harpreet Singh Saini, an 18-year-old college freshman whose mother was killed in the Oak Creek shooting, testified at a hearing on hate crimes and "the dignity of being a statistic." Click here to watch his testimony.

DAVIS, CA – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) is proud to join more than 100 Members of Congress in sending 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.
 
“We Americans will never forget the 2,977 victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks. If I have any say in the matter, we also won’t forget the 2,978th victim, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a loving Sikh father shot and killed in Mesa, Arizona on September 15th because his hateful ignorant killer was out for revenge and thought he was a Muslim,” said Congressman Garamendi. “Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, and Arab American communities live with the knowledge that it only takes one unhinged hatemonger to cut their lives short. The FBI needs to keep track of these hate crimes so that we can have an accurate picture of the danger.”

Garamendi, “I have prayed with Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Christians. I’ve dined with imams, rabbis, bishops, and granthis. I’ve attended services at churches, temples, gurdwaras, and mosques. I learned long ago that the diverse tapestry of America thrives when all of us can peacefully choose how and if we worship. Hate divides us; it destroys lives; it destroys the unity our pluralistic democracy needs. Hate crimes aren’t just vicious crimes against our neighbors; they attack the core of what makes us American.”

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.

“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.

The full text of the letter is below:

Advisory Policy Board Members
U.S. Department of Justice
c/o R. Scott Trent
CJIS Designated Federal Officer
Criminal Justice Information Services Division
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001

March 21, 2013

Dear Members of the Advisory Policy Board,
We would like to respectfully express our strong support for adding three new categories to the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) data collection mandate -- anti-Sikh, anti-Hindu and anti-Arab hate crimes. Unfortunately, there is a specific, demonstrated need for hate crime data for each of these three categories.

We are in favor of such a move in part because many Congressional offices have heard from constituents and leaders in the Sikh, Hindu and Arab-American communities about their ongoing fear of being the victim of a hate crime. This fear is a result of demonstrable and specific violent threats and attacks. For example, a man attempted to firebomb a Hindu Temple in New York on New Year’s Day, 2012. In December 2012, a Hindu man whose attacker said she hated Hindus and Muslims was shoved in front of an oncoming subway train, resulting in his death. Even before the horrific massacre at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in August 2012 that took the lives of six worshippers, two Sikh men in Sacramento were killed and another in New York was brutally attacked.

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.

We understand that, at present, the FBI does not collect specific information about these categories of hate violence, which may at times be recorded as anti-Muslim bias motivation. However, evidence suggests that all too many crimes are committed against these groups because of their religious or national identity, and not because they are confused with Muslims.
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.

Thank you for your careful consideration of these issues.

Sincerely,
Joe Crowley
Eliot Engel
Bill Pascrell
Michael Honda
Adam Schiff
Gary Peters
Judy Chu
Ami Bera
Tulsi Gabbard
Eric Swalwell
John Conyers, Jr.
Jared Polis
Brad Sherman
Bennie G. Thompson
Jackie Speier
Gerald E. Connolly
Carolyn B. Maloney
Ron Kind
Ben Ray Luján
Raúl M. Grijalva
Bobby L. Rush
Doris O. Matsui
Gwen Moore
Theodore E. Deutch
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Henry A. Waxman
Jim Costa
Zoe Lofgren
Gregory W. Meeks
Barbara Lee
Suzan K. DelBene
Sam Farr
Betty McCollum
Janice D. Schakowsky
Michael E. Capuano
Grace Meng
John Lewis
Grace F. Napolitano
George Miller
Rush Holt
Sander M. Levin
Chris Van Hollen
Loretta Sanchez
Luis V. Gutierrez
Earl Blumenauer
Jim McDermott
James P. Moran
Madeline Z. Bordallo
Lois Capps
Mark Pocan
Sheila Jackson Lee
John P. Sarbanes
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Alan S. Lowenthal
John D. Dingell
José E. Serrano
Tony Cárdenas
Julia Brownley
Tammy Duckworth
Paul Tonko
Adam Smith
James P. McGovern
Peter Welch
Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr
Keith Ellison
John Garamendi
Al Green
Jerry McNerney
Richard E. Neal
Pedro R. Pierluisi
Steve Israel
Carolyn McCarthy
Robert E. Andrews
Lloyd Doggett
Janice Hahn
Eni  F.H. Faleomavaega
Albio Sires
Frederica S. Wilson
Peter A. DeFazio
Mark Takano
Edward J. Markey
Joseph P. Kennedy, III
Wm. Lacy Clay, Jr.
Joaquin Castro
Charles B. Rangel
Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
Karen Bass
Elijah E. Cummings
Stephen F. Lynch
John F. Tierney
David E. Price
Linda T. Sánchez
Daniel T. Kildee
Gloria Negrete McLeod
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan
André Carson
Rubén Hinojosa
Steve Cohen
Anna G. Eshoo
Alcee L. Hastings
David N. Cicilline
Louise McIntosh Slaughter
Juan Vargas
Chellie Pingree
Dina Titus
Jerrold Nadler
Niki Tsongas
Donna Edwards
Rosa L. DeLauro