Sen. Cory Booker will unveil a plan Thursday to address the rise of hate crimes and white supremacy in America after a gunman targeted Latinos in El Paso, Texas, earlier this month, killing 22 and wounding dozens.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “once said that, ‘It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me.’ So in my administration, we will use the full force of the presidency to combat hate crimes and root out white supremacist threats wherever they arise,” the New Jersey Democrat and presidential candidate said in a statement.
The El Paso shooting marked just the latest example of a broader surge in hate crimes nationally in recent years, including a 17% spike in 2017, according to the most recent available FBI data.
While President Donald Trump has been reluctant to single out white supremacists for blame, Booker’s plan would put those threats at the fore, establishing a White House Office on Hate Crimes and White Supremacist Violence to coordinate his administration’s efforts.
Booker would also require federal law enforcement agencies to report annually to Congress on the threat of white supremacy, and he would direct the FBI to resume characterizing crimes specifically as “white supremacist,” as opposed to the vague “racially motivated violent extremism,” for more accurate reporting on white supremacy.
As Trump’s White House has resisted directing government resources to address domestic terrorism, experts in his administration have sounded the alarm. During a House Oversight Committee hearing in June, officials told lawmakers that the federal government has not adapted to evolving threats from white supremacists.
“Our post-9/11 prevention capabilities, as robust as they are, were not designed to deal with this type of threat,” Elizabeth Neumann, a Department of Homeland Security official, said at the hearing, adding, “We know we’re not doing enough.”
Booker’s plan calls for the Department of Justice and the FBI to prioritize domestic terrorism the same way they do international terrorism.
The proposal comes as white supremacy, hate and gun violence have been at the center of the 2020 presidential race. At Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white supremacist gunman, Dylann Roof, killed nine black worshippers in 2015, Booker last week addressed the rising tide of hate in America, calling it an “issue of national security.”