The Trump administration is downplaying the growing threat of white-supremacist terrorism. It is time for Congress to act.
- White-supremacist violence in the US is growing, but the Trump administration is ignoring it.
- To combat the problem, the US must first collect accurate statistics on the violence and then fund programs to tackle the issue head on.
- Congress should also pass the NO HATE Act, legislation designed to greatly strengthen data sharing and hate-crime prevention in local, state, and federal law enforcement.
- Don Beyer is in his third term in the House of Representatives, where he represents Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation's capital. He is the author of the NO HATE Act.
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Two years ago, I watched with deep sadness as my beloved Virginia became the center of a national firestorm of attention during a weekend of hatred and violence. In the aftermath of Charlottesville, I hoped that we could at least take lessons from that catastrophe to help reduce hate-fueled terrorism.
Sadly, subsequent events, most recently in El Paso, Texas, show that the problem of white-supremacist violence is getting worse.
And though the tragedy in Texas deservedly got significant national attention, the problem goes way beyond El Paso.
It's mass murder and violence in the houses of worship of many faiths. It's the violent killing of neighbors or restaurant diners because of their race or religion. It's the murder of transgender women of color.
America has a serious white-supremacy problem, which is helping fuel a rise in hate crimes, violence, and domestic terrorism, and it's time for Congress to do something to combat this growing threat to our nation.
America's white-supremacy problem is being ignored
Hate crimes have grown more numerous in each of the past three years, even according to the woefully incomplete data available to the FBI.
This lack of complete statistics has lent credence to those who wish to deny the obvious increase in the danger of violent racism and bigotry because it makes them uncomfortable. That includes powerful people in media, government, and, most important, the Trump administration.
This country responded to acts of foreign terrorism by invading two countries, undertook unprecedented surveillance of its own citizens, and imposed massive security restrictions at airports and government buildings.
But today - faced with a threat that the FBI director says amounts to an enormous portion of all terrorist threats against the US in 201 - the White House reportedly refused to allow the Department of Homeland Security to even prioritize domestic terrorism because mentioning white supremacists would "trigger" the president.
The president's decision to ignore years of increasingly concerned warnings of law enforcement puts American lives at risk. The executive branch is responsible for Americans' security, and these compounded failures require action from Congress to help fix it.
There is much that we can do.
A few steps toward confronting white supremacy
The Judiciary Committee is set to take up legislation - which I support - to bar people convicted of hate crimes from obtaining firearms. We should also take forceful action, using the power of the purse, to prevent the Trump administration from making further cuts to agencies and programs tasked with tracking and fighting domestic terrorism.
To give them the best possible tools in this fight, Congress should also pass the NO HATE Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation that I introduced to greatly strengthen data sharing and hate-crime prevention in local, state, and federal law enforcement.
Right now, an enormous number of these heinous acts go unreported, including even high-profile crimes like the murders of Heather Heyer and Khalid Jabara. Assembling accurate data is a vital step toward the larger goal of creating a coordinated national strategy for stopping the rise of white-supremacist violence, and it would also rebut those who falsely and harmfully claim that no such problem exists.
I will continue to work with my colleagues who are demanding action from the administration to confront racism and address domestic terrorism. As we go forward, it is vital that we remember that the killer in El Paso claimed inspiration from the racist mass murderer in Christchurch, New Zealand, which has "become a rallying cry for extremists" around the world. To defeat such a widespread threat we will need to be much smarter and better organized.
Finally, we need our commander in chief to acknowledge this threat to the American people, and to protect them.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).
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