Location: 500 First St NW 9th Floor
Date: October 19, 2023

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States in the early months of
2020, there has been a dramatic rise in anti-Asian discrimination across the United States,
including acts of violence against Asian Americans. At the same time, growing tensions in the
US-China relationship have led some U.S. government officials, along with some U.S. states, to
take actions in the name of national security that discriminate against Asian-Americans. Many
Asian-American groups worry that vague and overbroad national security surveillance laws, for
example, are being used to target Asian-Americans who have committed no crime.

Under the Trump administration, the Justice Department launched an initiative to crack down on
espionage by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP); the so-called “China Initiative” ended up
targeting a number of academic researchers and scientists of Chinese origin who had committed
no crime. The Initiative was shuttered in 2022. More recently, a number of U.S. states have
passed laws that limit land sales to Chinese nationals, among others, on the grounds that such
sales could create a security risk. Critics of a recent Florida law argue that such laws are
discriminatory, and that they fail to offer any significant security benefits. The Florida law is
currently being challenged in court.

The U.S. government has an important role to play in fighting anti-Asian bias and
discrimination. The Biden administration has filed a statement of interest in the Florida case, for
example, arguing that the state law is unconstitutional. And it has strengthened the Department
of Justice’s response to hate crimes targeting Asian Americans. For its part, the U.S. Congress
increased funding to local governments to combat anti-Asian discrimination, part of a broader
package of measures included in the 2021 COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.

This panel will discuss how national security rhetoric has been used to justify new laws and
programs that discriminate against Asian-Americans, and the steps that can be taken to protect
the human rights of Asian Americans.

This event is co-sponsored by the Georgetown Center for Asian Law, the Human Rights Institute
(HRI) at Georgetown Law, and the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association.


Bethany Li, legal director for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
(AALDEF), will discuss her organization’s litigation against the Florida land sales law, and other
steps that AALDEF is taking to fight anti-Asian discrimination.

Gisela Perez Kusakawa, executive director of Asian American Scholars Forum (AASF), will
discuss AASF’s efforts to defend individuals wrongly accused of espionage by the U.S.
government, and also talk about other threats to equality and academic freedom.

Mark Jia, professor in comparative and transnational law, with particular interest in the United
States and China, will moderate this important discussion.