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Sen. Tammy Duckworth Calls For 'Deeper Investigation' Into Hate Crimes Against Asian-Americans

WASHINGTON (CBS Chicago/CBS News) -- U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) on Sunday called on FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland to take a deep look at hate crimes against Asian-Americans.

On CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday morning, Duckworth – the first Thai American elected to Congress – said people simply don't believe Asian-Americans are hate crime victims.

"The problem is the crimes often are not reported as a hate crime or race-motivated crime at the scene with the local police officers because people just don't see Asian-Americans as a minority group that gets attacked on a regular basis," Duckworth said. "Now, if you're Asian-American like me and my family, you know it happens on a regular basis. But oftentimes these crimes just get reported in some other way. Or when you say, 'Hey, I think it was race-motivated,' it doesn't - the authorities don't pay attention to that and just reclassify them."

Duckworth called for "deeper investigation" into the motive behind the shootings at Atlanta-area spas last week that left eight people dead, including six Asian women, as well as other crimes against Asian Americans.

Duckworth told "Face the Nation" that the shooting "looks racially motivated to me," and said she has asked FBI Director Chris Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland to examine whether hate crimes against Asian Americans are underreported.

"From where I sit, I want to see a deeper investigation into whether or not these shootings and other similar crimes are racially motivated. It looks racially motivated to me," Duckworth said Sunday. "But I'm not, you know, I'm not a police officer, I'm not investigating the crimes. What I have done, though, is I have actually sent a letter to Director Wray and to Attorney General Garland asking for a deeper investigation into crimes that involve Asian-Americans to see how many crimes have actually been underreported as hate crimes."

TRANSCRIPT: Sen. Tammy Duckworth On 'Face The Nation'

"We know that crimes against Asian-Americans that have been categorized as hate crimes have increased by over 150 percent in our nation's major cities," Duckworth continued. "That's over 3,800 additional crimes last year. But we also know that many of these crimes go underreported as hate crimes and are just classified as a mugging, or harassment or vandalism when really they were targeted at Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in particular."

Asian women in particular have been "commoditized and "over-sexualized," Duckworth said. As hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased over the last year, two-thirds of the victims have been Asian-American women, she said.

The suspect in the spa shootings, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, is in custody and has been charged with eight counts of murder on Wednesday. Police have said the suspect denied the killings were racially motivated. Instead, police said Long told investigators he had a "sexual addiction" and viewed the spas as a temptation he wanted to eliminate.

Contributing: Kathryn Watson, CBS News Digital

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