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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 24, 2020

Federal Law Enforcement Leaders Affirm Importance of Protecting Civil Rights Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – April 24, 2020

SAN DIEGO – U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer and FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Omer Meisel today denounced discrimination and acts of hate related to the COVID-10 pandemic that target Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and other racial and ethnic minorities and called on residents of San Diego and Imperial counties to take steps to counter xenophobia throughout the state.

U.S. Attorney Brewer today appointed a COVID-19 civil rights coordinator, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Tenorio, to lead investigations into suspected hate crimes and civil rights violations related to the nation's ongoing public health emergency. Tenorio is also chairperson of the San Diego Regional Hate Crimes Coalition.

“During this global pandemic, all families are worried about potential illness and death, financial security and their children’s education, but certain minority populations have the added fear that comes from being possible targets of hate,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “We will protect vulnerable communities from racist scapegoating and xenophobia that lead to criminal acts.”

“The FBI is concerned about the potential for hate crimes by individuals and groups targeting minority populations in the United States who they wrongly believe are responsible for the spread of the virus.  Investigating hate crimes against any person, including Asian Americans or individuals from East Asian countries, is one of the FBI's highest priorities, and we continue unabated in our pursuit of offenders during this time” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Meisel. “We will use all authority granted under federal law to hold those who commit hate crimes accountable.”

The Justice Department will prosecute hate crimes and violations of anti-discrimination laws against Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and others to the fullest extent of the law. Attorney General William Barr and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband have called upon department prosecutors throughout the country to watch for hate-motivated acts of violence.

U.S. Attorney Brewer and Special Agent in Charge Meisel urged San Diego and Imperial county residents to take the following steps to protect racial and ethnic minority community members from bias and hate:

Use language supported by public health officials when referring to the global pandemic and the precipitating virus. World Health Organization (WHO) officials have recommended using “coronavirus disease 2019” or “COVID-19” as appropriate descriptors.

Disseminate accurate COVID-19 information within professional and socialnetworks. U.S. Government officials have warned the public about widespread misinformation and disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Avoid spreading inaccurate information by relying on trusted sources for news and public health guidance. Examples include: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.gov), the WHO (WHO.int), and the California Department of Public Health https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx.

Encourage people you know to report all incidents of bias and hate. There is a significant disparity between hate crimes that actually occur and those reported to law enforcement. It is critical to report hate crimes not only to show support for the individual(s) directly impacted, but also to send a clear message that the community will not tolerate these kinds of crimes. Reporting also enables law enforcement to fully understand the scope of the problem in a community and assign resources toward preventing and addressing crimes of bias and hate.

If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, please call 911. If you believe you've been the target or victim of a hate crime, sexual harassment or other violation of your civil rights, please contact the FBI San Diego Field Office by calling (858) 320-1800 or submitting a tip online at tips.fbi.gov. The U.S. Attorney's Office COVID-19 civil rights coordinator will be notified of tips submitted via the above reporting methods.

Topic(s): 
Coronavirus
Contact: 
Assistant U. S. Attorney Christopher Tenorio (619) 546-8413
Press Release Number: 
CAS20-0424-Coronavirus Pandemic
Updated April 24, 2020