Support the Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2003

Categories: Advocacy Letter

Recipient: U.S. House of Representatives

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil rights coalition representing people of color, women, children, older Americans, persons with disabilities, gays and lesbians, major religious organizations, labor unions, and civil and human rights groups, we urge you to support the “Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2003,” (HCPA), the House companion to the “Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2003” (LLEEA) in the Senate.

In the wake of the terrible events of September 11, our nation has witnessed an unfortunate and deeply disturbing rise in the incidence of hate-motivated violence against Arabs, South Asians, Muslims, and Sikhs. Documentation on hate crime activity from the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee make clear that additional governmental action is necessary to address the problem. Congress must take this troubling time to send a clear message to the nation that we will continue to be vigilant against the tyranny of hate.

The HCPA strengthens the federal hate crimes statute by removing unnecessary obstacles to federal prosecution and by providing authority for federal involvement in a wider category of bias-motivated crimes. Current hate crimes law leaves federal prosecutors powerless to intervene in bias-motivated crimes when they cannot also establish that the crime was committed because of the victim’s involvement in a “federally-protected activity” such as serving on a jury, attending a public school, or voting. This bill would enhance the federal response to hate crime violence by covering all violent crimes based on race, color, religion, or national origin. In addition, the HCPA would permit federal involvement in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes based on the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, or disability. This expansion is critical in order to protect members of these groups from this most egregious form of discrimination. LCCR believes that while states should continue to play the primary role in the prosecution of hate crime violence, the federal government must be able to address cases that local authorities are either unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute.

While LCCR recognizes that bigotry cannot be legislated out of existence, a forceful, moral response to hate violence is required of us all. We strongly believe Congress must do everything possible to empower the federal government to assist in local hate crime prosecutions and, where appropriate, expand existing federal authority to permit a wider range of investigations and prosecutions.

If you have any questions or need further information, please contact Nancy Zirkin, LCCR Deputy Director/Director of Public Policy, at (202) 263-2880.

Sincerely,

Wade Henderson, Executive Director

Dorothy I. Height, Chairperson