Nearly 100 members of Congress are calling on the US Attorney General to investigate the Justice Department’s alleged racial profiling of Asians.
“Racial profiling is both illegal and corrosive to our democracy,” according to the letter seen by Al Jazeera.
“Over the years, multiple people who happened to be of Asian descent have been falsely accused by the Department of Justice of espionage,” it said.
Axios reported that the letter was delivered on Thursday.
“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,” according to the letter.
The letter also called for “implicit bias training” for the agency.
The move comes after the Justice Department moved last week to drop all charges against a Chinese researcher arrested last year over visa fraud in its “China Initiative” that aims to prevent the transfer of US technology.
Tang Juan, a visiting researcher at the University of California Davis School of Medicine was arrested in July last year for allegedly concealing her military affiliation.
In a filing with the US District Court for the Eastern District of California, prosecutors said they were moving to dismiss the indictment and vacate the trial, but gave no reasons.
The step comes after the defence called for the case to be dismissed, based on recently disclosed evidence of a report by FBI analysts that questioned if the visa application question on “military service” was clear enough for Chinese medical scientists at military universities and hospitals.
At least five Chinese researchers were arrested last year over the issue and two are still in jail.
Civil liberties groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Asian Law Caucus, have voiced concern about the cases, saying they reflect anti-China bias.
Defence lawyers say their clients’ real crime is running afoul of US-China politics.
The Justice Department started the China Initiative three years ago under former President Donald Trump to counter China’s national security threats.
The move also comes after US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited China earlier this week.
Sherman, the United States’ second-ranked official, met State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other officials.
The visit was meant to set the stage for further exchanges and a potential meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping later this year.
Before Tang’s arrest, she sought refuge in China’s consulate in San Francisco, following an FBI interrogation with her mother and daughter.
The judge in the case later ordered the FBI interview to be dropped as Tang had not been read her Miranda rights, warning against self-incrimination.
The judge in the case of Song Chen, another Chinese researcher and visiting scholar at Stanford University, had ordered FBI interrogations dropped for the same reason.
Last week, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused the US of arresting its citizens studying in the country “under fabricated charges, violating legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals”.