CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Since the beginning of the pandemic, experts have tried to trace the roots of the coronavirus. Some say it originated in Asia which led, they say, to the skyrocketing number of hate crimes against Asian Americans.
In response, Congress passed the bipartisan COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.
On Wednesday,I went one-on-onewith Republican Congressman Michael Cloud who represents District 27.
Now, I speak one-on-one with one of Congressman Cloud's constituents, Leticia Bajuyo.
Bajuyo is a sculptor and professor at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. She also happens to be Asian American.
With attacks against Asian Americans on the rise, Bajuyo says she's grateful Congress passed the bill into law.
"I am fortunate that here in Corpus Christi I have not personally experienced it but that doesn't mean I don't experience the fear," Bajuyo told me at the Museum of South Texas where she is currently showing her latest sculpture, "Tethered."
She may experience the fear but at the same time feeling disappointed with Congressman Cloud who voted against the bill.
Congressman Cloud told me why he voted against the bill during our interview on Wednesday. "There’s laws in place," he said. "Everything that is supposed to protect us from that law is already illegal."
That's not exactly what Bajuyo wanted to hear.
"It's painful," she said. "It's painful to recognize that that is my representative."
Also during our Wednesday interview, Congressman Cloud told me other reasons for his vote. First, he believes the bill sailed through Congress too quickly, he says, with not enough time for debate. "It's another effort right now to divide America," he said.
That response is something Bajuyo isn't buying.
"So standing in the way of it and trying to make it as a statement of divisiveness," Bajuyo asks? "No. It's not that."
Congressman Cloud also said the bill had a good marketing campaign and that's when I wanted to know if the Congressman is doing a marketing campaign of his own.
Bajuyo expressed her opinion. "It's marketing to acknowledge that there are some people that want to continue to be able to very freely blame a population," she said. "It's not a question of freedom of speech. It's whenever that goes into the level of violence."
That's when we shared Congressman Cloud's answer when I asked him if he thought a lawmaker not voting for the bill sends the wrong message.
"I think so," Bajuyo told me. "I think so. In the same way of using different terminology, it's saying that it's OK for other people to continue to have views of not supporting your population."
And that, Bajuyo says, includes Congressman Cloud, who says we already have the rights we need.
Congressman Cloud said we have the necessary laws in place and don't need this one. "The rights we have to protect ourselves, to protect us applies to all of us as individuals regardless of creed or color or religion or any of those sort of things," he said.
That leaves Bajuyo with high hopes the newly-enacted law could bring about positive change.
"Hopefully this bill pauses someone who's thinking about doing such an act," she told me.
"The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act doesn't say that anyone, in particular, is wrong," Bajyuo said. "It's just saying that we need to protect and to help those in need."
Of the 63 lawmakers voting against the bill, including Congressman Cloud, roughly one-third of them are from Texas.
It's also important to note, not all Asian American groups support the new law.