Press Release: Coalition Calls on Inspector General to Investigate Possible Profiling of Asian American Scientists

WASHINGTON — The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates (OCA) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice were joined by 77 Asian Pacific American, civil rights and civil liberties organizations in sending a letter today to the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz seeking an independent investigation into what appears to be a trend of Asian American scientists being arrested and indicted for espionage-related crimes, only to later have all charges dropped, without explanation.

60 Minutes recently highlighted the cases of Temple University Physics Department Chair Dr. Xiaoxing Xi and National Weather Service Hydrologist Sherry Chen, bringing these cases renewed national attention.

Last November, NCAPA and NAPABA led a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging her to lead a Department of Justice investigation. Forty-two members of Congress also requested a full investigation, followed by aCongressional Asian Pacific American Caucus letter to Inspector General Horowitz last month.

In April 2016, the Department of Justice issued new rules to provide greater oversight, consultation, and coordination for all national security related cases. While these are welcome improvements, they leave unanswered critical questions about what happened in the cases of Dr. Xi and Ms. Chen and whether profiling played any role.

“Members of Congress as well as the civil rights and legal communities continue to be concerned that individuals appear to have been targeted for investigations based on their perceived race, ethnicity, or national origin,” said NAPABA President Jin Y. Hwang. “As we have seen in the cases of Dr. Xiaoxing Xi and Ms. Sherry Chen, these investigations upend lives and have lasting impacts even after charges are dropped. We continue to urge the Department of Justice to conduct thorough and independent investigations to assure the American public that the protections afforded by the Constitution and enshrined in Department policy prohibiting profiling are being followed in the interest of preserving a fair and unbiased legal system.”

“OCA is concerned with the apparent practice of racial profiling in national espionage cases. Both Sherry Chen and Professor Xi’s cases highlight the very human costs of charges brought to court with insufficient evidence,” said OCA Chief Executive Officer Ken Lee. “The treatment that both of them endured must never happen again. That is why we, along with our partners at NCAPA, NAPABA, and the Asian Americans Advancing Justice network, sent a letter to the Inspector General’s office. We remain committed to ensuring that there is an independent investigation of the Department of Justice by the Inspector General’s office to determine whether or not race, ethnicity, and national origin is a determining factor in all national espionage cases, particularly in the cases against Asian Americans. To allow our nation’s headquarters for legal justice to use such underhanded tactics to persecute individuals would be a mockery of the advances our country has made in civil rights and equal and equitable treatment for all Americans.”

“Dr. Xi and Ms. Chen have already suffered enough professionally and psychologically. They deserve answers–and so do the American people,” said NCAPA National Director Christopher Kang. “We are deeply concerned by even the appearance of anyone being targeted because of their race, ethnicity or national origin, and we must prevent any practice of profiling from happening again. The Department of Justice must preserve our fundamental values of fairness and due process and protect our civil rights and civil liberties.”

For more information, the media may contact Brett Schuster, NAPABA communications manager, at 202-775-9555 or [email protected].

Press Release: Asian Americans Advancing Justice Demands Racial Bias Investigation

June 4, 2015

Mariam Hosseini, Advancing Justice – ALC
[email protected]

In response to the recent case of Sherry Chen, a federal employee who was arrested on suspicion of espionage for China before all charges were suddenly dismissed, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) issues the following statement:

As a leading national civil rights voice rooted in Asian American communities, we demand an investigation into whether race and national origin played a role in the shameful indictment of Sherry Chen, a dedicated scientist with the National Weather Service. Because Ms. Chen’s case is not unique or isolated, we further call upon the Administration to examine systemic racial bias against Asian Americans in all federal agencies, particularly those with jobs requiring security clearances.

Ms. Chen is only the most recent victim of over-zealous federal investigators and prosecutors who view with suspicion any ties with family and friends in other countries, particularly China. Clearly, the system has perverse incentives, rewarding law enforcement officials for high-profile prosecutions that fit the narrative of the foreign threat as opposed to rewarding them for a fair and careful consideration of the facts.

Ironically, Asians immigrate to the U.S. because our country claims to offer freedom, a fair process and protections for all, regardless of race and class.  We know that this promise has not held true for communities of color, for example, for African Americans in the criminal justice system.  Neither is the system working for well-educated Chinese Americans who may have assumed that their privileged economic status would protect them against racial bias.

As Sherry Chen’s case, as well as past cases such as the unjust prosecution of fellow federal scientist Wen Ho Lee indicate, the national security system is set up to feed biases and suspicion of “foreigners”.  In the recent past, we have been contacted by other Asian Americans who have faced questions because of visits to their countries of origin, participation in ethnic organizations, or contacts with Chinese friends and family. This racial profiling is unacceptable.

Our community cannot wait for the government to act.  We must also protect our rights. Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus has created this Know Your Rights guide for scientists and other individuals who are contacted by law enforcement agents.  Our national affiliation will continue to champion the rights of our communities and all Americans whenever civil rights and civil liberties are violated on the pretext of national security.