May 19 (UPI) -- Vice President Kamala Harris expressed "outrage and grief over" anti-Asian American hate crimes and condemned efforts to restrict voting rights during a speech at the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Victory Alliance's first unity summit Wednesday.
Delivering the keynote address, Harris cited the "pain" and "viciousness" of hate crimes targeting the group amid the COVID-19 pandemic but said the awareness of the moment presents an opportunity for change.
"We all see that and as a member of this community, I share in that outrage and grief and I believe that we have an opportunity now to turn that pain into action, to turn that pain, that righteous anger, because of the injustice of it, we have an opportunity to turn that into power," Harris said.
Harris cited a report by Stop AAPI Hate earlier this month, which found that more than 6,000 hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been reported since March 2020.
She referenced her time as California's attorney general stating that those numbers are "always underreported."
Echoing her statements after the mass shootings in Atlanta earlier this year that killed eight people including six Asian Americans, Harris said that Asian Americans "have the right to be identified as Americans, not as 'the other,' not as 'them' but as 'us.'
"In America, I do believe a harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us and we should all then recognize that interconnection between each of us," she said.
Harris praised Congress for passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which seeks to expedite Justice Department reviews of hate crimes related to the pandemic and establish methods for reporting such crimes, adding that President Joe Biden plans to sign the measure into law soon.
Further, Harris pointed to the importance of protecting and expanding voting rights in the face of more than 300 laws throughout the nation which in some way limit the right to vote.
She noted that many of the laws specifically restrict to right the vote by mail, citing statistics that 64% of Asian Americans vote by mail.
"We must see these efforts for what they are. Let's be clear-eyed, they are an attempt to suppress the right to vote and while we must be vigilant in defending the voting rights that currently exist, we must also do that and work to expand the right of all Americans to vote," she said.
Harris called on Americans to urge Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Senate to pass the For the People Act and to send both to the president's desk for signature.