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Ahead of Pivotal Advisory Board Hearing, Congressman Crowley Submits Testimony Urging FBI to Collect Hate Crimes Data Against Sikh, Hindu, Arab American Communities

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Today, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), who spearheaded the effort to encourage the Department of Justice and FBI to begin tracking and quantifying hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu, and Arab Americans, announced he has submitted testimony to the FBI's Advisory Policy Board expressing his strong support for the inclusion of these communities on the FBI's official hate crimes documentation form. The Advisory Policy Board will meet June 5 to consider updating the FBI's Hate Crime Incident Report Form (1-699), which serves as the primary mechanism for the federal government to document hate crimes committed in the U.S., to include crimes against these communities.

"The disturbing pattern of violence and hate against Sikh, Hindu, and Arab Americans is unacceptable. But, we will only be able to comprehensively address the problem if and when we know the full scope and severity of crimes against these communities. That's why I reiterated my call for the FBI to begin tracking hate crimes against these groups and I look forward to the Advisory Policy Board taking action on this matter," said Rep. Crowley. "There is no question that the Hate Crimes Incident Report Form must be updated to reflect the realities these groups face day-in and day-out, and I am hopeful the Advisory Policy Board will recognize this demonstrable need and recommend the change take place."

In his testimony, Crowley shares feedback and concerns from his conversations with Sikh, Hindu, and Arab American communities over the past year. Specifically, Crowley points to the communities' appreciation to law enforcement officials for their efforts to protect and educate, their concerns about the depth and realities of the issue, and that inclusion of these groups on the official form would lead to greater cooperation between law enforcement and the communities.

Sikh, Hindu, and Arab Americans 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.

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.

In April 2012, Crowley led a letter signed by 93 members of Congress urging the FBI to update the Hate Crime Incident Report Form (1-699) to include crimes committed against Sikh-Americans. Following the August 2012 attack on the Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wis. Crowley spearheaded the introduction of a Congressional resolution recognizing the contributions of the Sikh-American community and urging action on hate crimes. In March 2013, Crowley led a letter signed by over 100 members of Congress to the FBI Advisory Policy Board to express strong support to begin tracking and quantifying hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab-Americans.

Crowley's testimony as submitted is below:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this brief testimony for the Advisory Policy Board meeting on June 5, 2013. I greatly appreciate the time and care that the APB has put into studying the issue of hate crimes committed against Sikh, Hindu and Arab Americans.

In earlier letters I submitted to the Board, I and my colleagues shared our view that, given the serious concerns about violence faced by the Sikh, Hindu and Arab American communities, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice should begin to collect data on hate crimes committed against these groups on its official hate crimes documentation form. I won't revisit those views here, but respectfully ask that you consider this submission as an addendum to these earlier letters.

In particular, I would like to share the feedback from conversations I have held with these communities. First, beyond emphasizing their strong support for this effort, they have expressed their heartfelt appreciation for law enforcement officials across the country who have taken the lead -- in many cases risking their lives -- in protecting communities in danger. The communities have also shared their appreciation of officials who have not only carried out law enforcement work, but have worked to educate their staff about communities at risk. They have conveyed that in many cases they felt that diligent law enforcement educational efforts have not only made substantial progress in making communities feel more secure, but in improving on-the-ground safety.

Secondly, my conversations with the affected communities continue to indicate that the scale of problem is in fact much deeper than has been documented. Countless Sikh, Hindu and Arab Americans know of someone who has been threatened or attacked on the basis of their identity. All too often, they tell me, individuals impacted by hate crimes do not pursue hate crime charges, and many do not even report crimes to the authorities. Despite the diligent efforts of many law enforcement organizations across the country, there continues to be at least a perceived gap between those affected by crimes and law enforcement authorities.

Lastly, the communities have emphasized to me that a decision to include hate crimes committed against Sikh, Hindu and Arab Americans on the official hate crimes documentation form would be perceived by them as a green light to push ahead with greater cooperation between affected communities and law enforcement. I have been told time and time again that the communities feel law enforcement efforts would be substantially strengthened if the data collection mandate is expanded to include these groups. They strongly believe that such a decision would substantially strengthen working relationships between communities and law enforcement officials, and ultimately strengthen the efforts of police and prosecutors across the country.

I greatly appreciate you taking these views into consideration, in addition to the earlier views expressed by my colleagues and me. As a representative of one of the most diverse constituencies in the United States, I have attended far too many community events condemning attacks against communities vulnerable to hate crimes. I strongly believe that documenting hate crimes against Sikh, Hindu and Arab Americans would not only reflect the realities felt by these communities, but would be a strong step toward helping to end these crimes once and for all.

Congressman Crowley is the eight-term representative from the 14th Congressional District of New York, which includes sections of Queens and the Bronx. He is a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and serves as Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives.

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