Jul 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Lawmakers urge probe into DOJ's alleged racial profiling of Asians

Photo of Merrick Garland speaking from a podium with the DOJ seal on it

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nearly 100 members of Congress are urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the Justice Department's alleged racial profiling of Asians, according to a letter shared with Axios.

Why it matters: The case of Anming Hu, a scientist who was baselessly targeted in an espionage probe, has renewed scrutiny of the DOJ after an FBI agent admitted to falsely implicating the Chinese Canadian.

  • The bicameral coalition, led by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), delivered the letter to Garland on Thursday.

What they're saying: "Over the years, multiple people who happened to be of Asian descent have been falsely accused by the Department of Justice of espionage," the letter states, citing Hu, Wen Ho Lee, Sherry Chen and Xiaoxing Xi.

  • "The common thread in every one of these cases was a defendant with an Asian surname — and an innocent life that was turned upside down."
  • Lawmakers are asking for an investigation into DOJ operations and specifically the China Initiative, a program launched under President Donald Trump that targeted the Chinese government's attempts to steal intellectual property.
  • They also asked for an update on the agency's implicit bias trainings, which were mandated in 2016 after the DOJ dropped several espionage charges against Asian researchers.

"This is across administrations and it's both Democratic and Republican administrations, making the same mistakes over and over again," Lieu told Axios.

  • It's not confined to the DOJ either, he said, referring to a "rogue" Commerce Department division that relied on race-based investigations.
  • "I would urge all Cabinet secretaries to look at their agencies and figure out if they need to do training for their personnel."

Worth noting: At a roundtable hosted by Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) last month, Chen and Xi gave emotional testimonies about the anxiety and turmoil caused by the DOJ's actions.

  • Last week, the DOJ dropped individual cases against five Chinese researchers accused of hiding ties to the Chinese military.
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