Asian Americans Advancing Justice Demands Racial Bias Investigation

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.

For press inquiries, please contact Mariam Hosseini, (415) 848-7728,