During a hearing on hate crimes and domestic extremism today, a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee heard testimony from the son of a victim of the August shooting at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. U.S. Senator Herb Kohl participated in the hearing to introduce Harpreet Singh Saini, who lost his mother as a result of the temple shooting. Harpreet lives in Oak Creek and is a freshman at Milwaukee Area Technical College majoring in law enforcement. Prior to the hearing, Kohl met privately with Harpreet and his brother, Kamaljit, who accompanied him to Washington.
"I know I speak for the Committee when I tell you, Harpreet, how sorry we are for the loss of your mother and friends. Though we can never imagine the pain you have endured, please know that we are outraged and deeply saddened by the violent assault on your peaceful community," Kohl said.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Justice tracks hate crimes against a collection of religious groups but does not include the Sikh religion among them. Kohl and others in the Senate have urged the Attorney General to change the Justice Department's current policy.
"August 5th was a tragic day not only for Sikh Americans, but for all Americans -- as is any day extremist hate groups target people of faith with harassment and violence. Unfortunately, although the Justice Department tracks crimes against other religious groups, it does not track crimes against Sikhs. I urge the Justice Department to start doing so -- not only will it allow law enforcement to better understand the scope of the problem, it will also encourage Sikhs to report when they are victims. These are steps we must take to make sure we never again endure a tragedy like that in Oak Creek," Kohl said.