Advancing Justice – AAJC Commends Department of Commerce’s Decision to Eliminate Security Unit Amid Racial Profiling Concerns

Advancing Justice – AAJC supports the decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) to eliminate the Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS)
For Immediate Release
Michelle Boykins (202) 296-2300, ext. 0144
Vivin Qiang 202-780-9327

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC supports the decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) to eliminate the Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS), a unit that conducted investigations without proper authorization against Asian Americans, and in particular, against Chinese and Middle Eastern federal employees.

This decision came after an internal review led by the DOC’s Office of General Counsel on ITMS found that the security unit engaged in investigations for criminal activities without proper authorization and operated with little oversight. Mismanagement within the unit resulted in a backlog of open cases that lasted for years, prolonged scrutiny of those impacted, and deprived those individuals of fair process. 

Gisela Perez Kusakawa, Staff Attorney, Anti-Racial Profiling Project and Immigration of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC issues the following statement:  

“We commend the Department of Commerce for taking action to eliminate the Investigations and Threat Management Service, but much remains to be done to end the racial discrimination and profiling of Asian American and immigrant communities in this country. We look forward to the DOC implementing further recommendations from the DOC Office of General Counsel including providing an oversight framework and updates to policies that ensure that the civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans including those of Asian descent are protected. 

We thank CAPAC Chair Representative Judy Chu for her calls earlier this year for this unit to be disbanded. Racial profiling and targeting has caused immeasurable harms to Asian Americans and Asian immigrants, including many who are serving our country as federal employees. Sherry Chen, a Chinese American hydrologist, was investigated by ITMS on charges of espionage and providing false information in 2014. ITMS repeatedly ignored evidence that proved Chen’s innocence. Despite having all the charges dropped, the unjust investigation shattered Chen’s career and reputation. Seven years later, Chen is still fighting for the right to return to work as the government appeals her reinstatement. 

Sherry Chen is not alone. ITMS conducted thousands of investigations that ruined lives and careers. In recent years, the U.S. government has greatly increased the targeting and racial profiling of Asian Americans and Asian immigrants particularly those of Chinese descent under the Department of Justice’s ‘China Initiative.’ It has become clear to many Asian Americans, especially those in the federal government, that they will not be treated like other Americans. 

While the Chinese Government does present challenges to the United States, including national security challenges, we must not overreact by treating all Asian Americans and Asian immigrants as suspects. Anti-China and racist rhetoric by government officials have fueled anti-Asian sentiment, further encouraging racial bias and hate against our communities across the country. The result is a further erosion of trust in the DOC, our federal government, and democracy by Asian Americans and immigrants.

The DOC’s decision is a step in the right direction and we are hopeful that an end to the Department of Justice’s ‘China Initiative’ will soon follow to put an end to the racial profiling of Asian Americans and immigrants and create an inclusive and welcoming environment.”