Asian American Wrongfully Accused of Spying Recounts Damage of Racial Profiling

“My lifetime of outstanding scientific work was destroyed. And my entire life was shattered,” hydrologist Sherry Chen told NBC Asian America

Sherry Chen
Xinhua/Bao Dandan via Getty Images

Hydrologist Sherry Chen, a Chinese immigrant who obtained U.S. citizenship in 1997, said she once saw herself as a “soldier without a uniform,” pointing to her hard work to keep American cities safe and informed with her water and flooding analysis.

But after the Justice Department accused her of spying for China in a seven-year-old case that’s since collapsed but has prevented her from working, Chen says she feels it’s evident that her sacrifices meant little, obscured by her race.

“I still struggle to sleep through the night because of the trauma inflicted by the government,” Chen said through tears. “My decades of service and contribution to the nation were entirely ignored and disappeared.”

The “nightmare,” as Chen, 66, describes it, is not over. She said she’s still on administrative leave from her job at the National Weather Service, and the ordeal has left her with indelible scars on her emotional well-being.

But Chen says she’s still fighting. Now, she’s speaking out alongside more than 1,000 organizations and individuals, including the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. They've signed a letter — shared first with NBC Asian American and sent to the Department of Commerce, which houses the Nationals Weather Service (NWS) — demanding a formal apology and Chen’s reinstatement.

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