Transcript of Speaker Pelosi’s Remarks at San Francisco COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act Enactment Press Event

May 27, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined leaders of the San Francisco Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community for a press event to highlight the enactment of S. 937, the bipartisan COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much to Cally Wong, director of the San Francisco API Council, for your advocacy on behalf of the AAPI community.  I salute the leaders who are with us today.  Sarah Wan, Executive Director of Community Youth Center, and then, under the circumstances we face, now Co-Founder of the Coalition on Community Safety and Justice.  And I'm glad that we're here also with Dean Ito Taylor, Executive Director of API Legal Outreach and Co-Chair, San Francisco API Council. 

Again, this is pretty exciting for me, because in the last two months, there have been so many occasions to focus on the pride we take in the AAPI community.  The inspiration it is to come to Chinatown, Japantown, to our communities of diversity in this district and across the country.  And the concern that we have about these assaults, these hate crimes against AAPI. 

So, here we are, in Portsmouth Square.  One week ago, we were in the White House with the President when he signed the legislation.  For a while now, as Kathy – Cally referenced, we have had our meetings – our regular meetings that we have, accelerating them, intensifying them, even before Asian [Pacific American] Heritage Month, which is May, we had one on – one of our meetings in the end of March, March 31.  Then we were at NEMS, North East Medical Services Center, to talk about COVID.  But you can't talk about that without talking about the assault on the community. 

The President, from the Day One of his inauguration as President United States, within 24 hours, he was calling upon the Justice Department to take steps to document and to prevent AAPI hate crimes.  And when he talked about COVID, he talked – his first speech on COVID to the nation, he talked about stopping AAPI hate crimes.  And then, of course, last week, to sign the bill. 

We were very proud because it was a bill that had very strong bipartisan support in the Congress, almost unanimous in the Senate.  Big strong vote in the House, strongly bipartisan.  I salute our Grace Meng in the House and Mazie Hirono in the Senate and Tammy Duckworth in the Senate and Judy Chu, the Chair of the CAPAC – of our Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in the House, and so many others who made that success possible. 

But what is important, and what we know is, we have to keep talking about it so that people know what opportunities are there for them.  They know to make a distinction between what someone might just call a casual reference, but if you hear the language you know it is a hate crime.  Again, typically, AAPI communities have been the hardest hit now by COVID.  And so we had this AAPI hate crimes and we have the COVID at the same time.  Native Americans and Pacific Islanders have high rate of death.  AAPI owned businesses are shutting, stigmatized by racist conspiracy theories.  Anti-AAPI hate crimes are spiking – 6,600 incidences.  The President cited that last week when he signed the bill.  Those were reported last year, and we think there are more that have not been reported.  And with seniors attacked, businesses vandalized, families in fear.  

Here in San Francisco, we see the pain in our own community.  We mourn the – with the family of Vicha Ratanapakdee, we pray for the recovery of Chui Fong Eng and another victim and we salute the bravery of Xiao Zhen Xie – how about that – for her bravery.  This horrific violence – these are just to name a few.  These horrific acts, this horrific violence demands urgent action.  

Again, that's why we passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.  Just so you know, the bill strengthens our ability to prevent, report and combat hate crimes and will help protect not only AAPI families, but all Americans from bigoted violence.  We did this for the AAPI community, but we really are doing it for America.  To make America live up – live up to our standards.  We're proud, again, of the bipartisanship of all, and we're very proud that President and Vice President – President Biden and Vice President Harris played such an important role in making it the law of the land.  

So, here we are, getting ready now for our American Jobs bill.  On Tuesday, under the leadership of the CAPAC, of Judy Chu of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, we heard from ten leaders of ten organizations.  I don't have to explain to anyone here the beautiful diversity of the Asian community, Asian American community.  So many manifestations.  And we've heard from them about how the Filipino community, which is very much in the lead in caregiving on COVID, has been disproportionately affected by infections and deaths.  We heard from – in a discreet way – from every manifestation of the community in terms of diversity, but also in terms of the purpose of their organizations, which will enable us, by listening, to do more to rid our country of this cancerous impact.  It's not lost on anybody that the Asian community has been a tremendous – the Asian American community has been a tremendous resource to our country.

We talked about the fact that in World War II, people were risking their lives to fight in the war – World War II – for our freedom, while their family members were in camps.  One of the things we're going to do that we talked about on Tuesday is to make sure that the National Park Service has the resources to have an interpretation of those camps so the public will know, so people won't forget what we were, sadly, doing at that time, so that we do not do it again.

And now, I see a school group is here to see the appreciation we all have for Chinatown.  It's always wonderful for me to come here.  Again, I always feel sorry for my colleagues that they do not have the advantage I have to represent such a beautifully enriched community of Asian American Pacific Islanders.  So with that, I – again, I want to salute all of the groups that are doing so much.  

As I close and turn this over back to Cally Wong and thank her for her leadership once again and as we hear from our other guests, I just want to comment on the tragedy that the employees at the Santa Clara Transportation Authority.  So many families suffering from gun violence in our country.  It has to stop.  And we will not stop until we get the legislation to protect the American people.  

When this happened in Georgia – the AAPI community in Georgia – I was so proud that Senator Feinstein came forth and said that that she was willing to adjust her attitude toward the filibuster so that we would only need 51 votes to pass the gun violence protection legislation.  Hopefully, more Members will come to that same values-based decision that she did.  But this is all connected.  It's about violence in our country one way or another.  And our – again, our thoughts and prayers are with all who have suffered from violence.  And of course, within the past day or so, what happened in Santa Clara.  Their families are in their hearts and in our prayers, but that's just not good enough.  We have to act.  We have to take action to pass legislation for gun violence protection. 

With that, again, I thank Cally for her hospitality here today.  Cally Wong – I’ll say what she is again: Director of San Francisco AAPI Council, leader of advocacy on behalf of the AAPI community.  I yield the floor back to Cally.  Thank you.

* * *

Thank you.  Thank you very much, Dean and Sarah and Cally.  Cally, Sarah and Dean, for making all of the connections that you have made.  That this is about America, this fight that we're having for the AAPI community.

I would like to have you all come closer because, with the questions and if they were to draw you into that.  I think we're pretty safe here in doing that.  Dean just, most recently, the most recent – I’ll spring from some of what he said about George Floyd.  

Two days ago, we had the family in the Capitol, and the President had the family in the White House, again, to raise the visibility and to say that we must stop violence in our country.  It's really all connected.  And when Dean talked about the transcontinental railroad and the credit that was not given to the Asian American – the Chinese American community – for building that.  Now, in retrospect, people understand better, but it shouldn't take this long.

But the list goes on.  And he said it so eloquently.  I won't repeat it except to say how important it is.  And again, I’m going to just salute our Mayor because we were with her just a couple of weeks ago with a Chinese American – we had a, dedicated to Ed Lee, housing project for veterans and people from the Asia Pacific American community.  The collaboration of us all, working together.  And the Mayor has been very, very forward in her rejection of the hate crimes and has acted upon – been the leader in some of the initiatives.

With that, any questions that you may have?  

Q:  Thank you, Speaker Pelosi.  I want to ask, outside the Act, will there be any funding for the Asian community in the whole country?  Because now the Asian community more cares about the life, especially the COVID-19 virus.

Speaker Pelosi.  What I mentioned about NEMS – North East Medical Services – that we were on April 7th last month.  We were announcing that we had $11 million going into that initiative.  What's important about that is, even in a broader sense, is that that community was an example to the country about how to address the COVID issue in the communities of color – culturally, linguistically, appropriately reaching out, reaching out.  So again, the example that is set of national significance makes it easy for us to attract the resources.  

I mentioned earlier about – when we were talking about the Park Service.  While some of my Members, like Doris Matsui, was born in a camp.  She was born in a camp.  They've been fighting for the, shall we say, proper interpretation of all of that.  That takes resources.

But as we go into the bill that we're building, the bill that we did – the Rescue Package had significant money that went into communities of color, specific language, very diverse, to, again, to be appropriate in how that money was spent, recognizing the high incidence of infection and death in the Asian Pacific American community, A.

B, as we go now into the infrastructure bill – and that's one thing we talked about on Tuesday with the groups – to, B, have the community in the conversation about how we go forward, for housing and for education and for safety in terms of drinking water and the rest, to listen to the concerns of the community where money will be allocated.  We want to make sure it is allocated in a new way to Build Back Better, not to build back old but to build back new.  And that's what the President has said.

And then we have our Families initiative.  And within those two bills, the infrastructure – the Jobs bill and the Families bill, we have an enormous resources that directly help the community even though they are more broadly in written, for example, tens of billions of dollars for child care.  Many people can't go back to work because their children – they don't have child care for their children.  

But in addition to that, the people who would be providing the child care are largely from communities of color, largely women.  And we have $400 billion for senior care, largely provided by women, many women of color.  So that it says that they should be properly compensated, properly trained and respected for what they do.

So, it's what – where is, where is the activity that needs to have the proper recognition?  And when we do it, it is not to perpetuate old ways of doing it at the expense of the beautiful diversity of our country.  I think people will be very pleased at how, how we go forward in that regard.

And as I said, the other day, we had ten organizations specifically talking about specific ways that the legislation we're doing should address them and some new ways that they were proposing.

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, you touched on yesterday, do you have any specifics for the victims’ families on how gun legislation can be moved forward?

Speaker Pelosi.  On yesterday?

Q:  Yeah, do you have any specifics for the victims’ families about how gun legislation will be moved forward?

Speaker Pelosi.  You know, we spend a great deal of time with the survivor families.  We have the regular basis where they come to the Capitol, and we reiterate the commitment: we're not going away until this is done.  We must pass this legislation.

And so while so many of those families – Mattie Scott right here in San Francisco has been a leader, as a family member – she lost her son, to, to try to make the connection in a way that people turn their grief into power to save other lives.  That isn't bringing their child or their family member back, but – I'll tell you who's been a champion on this, for messages to the family, is President Joe Biden. 

When we have the gathering of the survivors at the Capitol, before he was President, he would come as Vice President and then as not Vice President anymore but just as a recognized leader in our country, he would sit with them alone.  The rest of us would not be in the room.  He had lost two family members – two of his children and his wife.  So, he had – he belongs to a club none of us wants to belong to.  So, he could listen to them in a shared state of loss, and that was so appreciated because he took the time to.  So, my Members are tired of moments of silence and proclamations.  You know, they say, ‘That’s interesting, but it is no substitute for action to make sure it doesn't happen again.’

And it's one of the reasons that we want to pass the H.R. 1 in the House, which will reduce the role of big, dark special interest money in politics, which is how the gun lobby operates.  It's a shame.  It's a shame.  

But we're, again, going to persist on every example that you can use around the country.  We’ll have a Pulse anniversary coming up soon.

The again, the Georgia is – issue is fresh in our mind.  And now in San Jose, Santa Clara County was a tragedy.  Our hearts break over it, but that's just not good enough.  We have to have laws passed that prevent it from happening further.  But in the meantime, a recognition that our hearts and prayers and thoughts are with those families. 

And do you have anything you’d like to say about guns or how money should be allocated?

Sarah Wan.  I think as part of my speech is very important for the state and local government to work closely with the local community partners, community organizations together to truly develop a community led, community driven solutions to combat anti-Asian hate – violence or hate crime.

And we're doing it in San Francisco, and I really have full confidence that we’ll do it for the state and also on a local level with our great leader.

Speaker Pelosi.  That is so important because the idea that we have these capable organizations, which have the trust of members of the community.  So, if we're trying to do outreach, better to come from these community groups, that these are community based solutions, again, that have trust that has been built over time, personal relationships, but also that are the – ongoing for the organization.  We really cannot do it effectively without it.  That's central to it.  

If there are no other questions, I thank you so much for being here.  And again, it affords me the opportunity, once again, to be in Chinatown.  I love going to Japantown.  Just recognizing, as you mentioned the, the beautiful, beautiful diversity of the Asian community in San Francisco, a source of inspiration to us and again, solutions that are of national significance.

Thank you all very much.  As we go into Memorial Day, let us recognize all who have fought so hard for the freedom in our country.  And we all owe them for the sacrifices they made.  We owe them a country worthy of their sacrifice.  And that is a country that is free of all of these hate crimes.

Thank you so much.