WASHINGTON — The chairs of the Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific American and Progressive caucuses in Congress released statements on March 20 acknowledging the Department of Justice’s investigation into the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and urging them to pursue the matter as a federal hate crime.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus: “Trayvon Martin was an unarmed victim killed in a senseless act of violence. A thorough investigation is the only way we’ll ever know exactly what led George Zimmerman to shoot Trayvon. Letting questions go unanswered sets a dangerous precedent for vigilante behavior and people acting irresponsibly on misguided and heavily prejudiced suspicions.  We have seen similar cases of violence in communities around the nation and must confront these examples whenever and wherever they occur.

“I am glad to hear the Justice Department has made the right decision to investigate Trayvon’s murder. Americans of all backgrounds deserve equal protection under the law, and I join my congressional colleagues in emphasizing how important this investigation is.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus: “I am encouraged by the initial actions taken by Attorney General Eric Holder to ensure that the FBI opens an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the senseless shooting death of unarmed, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The handling of this case compromises the integrity of our legal system and sets a horrific precedent of vigilante justice. In far too many instances, those who are meant to protect us and our children have blatantly turned their backs on fairness and justice.  Despite the heroic efforts of Congresswoman Corrine Brown to help bring justice to this family and surrounding community, the Sanford Police Department has shown a blatant disregard for justice.

“I am urging the Department of Justice to investigate Trayvon’s death as a hate crime due to the fact that his only crime seems to be the color of his skin. The Congressional Black Caucus stands with our colleagues to continue the fight for parity on the local, state, and federal levels.”

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus: “I am relieved that Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice are investigating the killing of Trayvon Martin and taking the first step in seeking justice. Though knowing their son’s death will be investigated can only provide a small relief next to the enormous grief of losing a child, the Department of Justice is sending a message to the Martin family and to communities of color that our children’s lives have value and deserve equal protection under the law.

“It is vital, for the preservation of our basic notions of civil rights and trust in the legal system, that we take a closer look at what transpired that night and the Sanford Police Department’s actions. It is essential for the Martin family, the residents of Sanford, for communities of color and for the countless number of Americans across the country who have been outraged by this tragedy. “

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus: “Equal justice is one of the building blocks of this country, no matter where you came from or who you are. This young man deserved better, and his family deserves more than an apology and a promise to do better next time. Our nation was founded on the principle of justice for all, not justice for some or justice some of the time. This case challenges our commitment to that principle, and I share the hope of millions of Americans around the country that we’re going to meet that challenge.”

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