By Mike Lillis - 03/27/12 02:54 PM EDT
The parents of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin are slated to appear on Capitol Hill to discuss the killing of their son.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton will be in attendance Tuesday when Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee gather to examine the federal government's role in eliminating racial profiling and hate crimes, according to the office of Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson-LeeDems sustain protest as GOP angles to start recess early House erupts as GOP tries to halt Dems' sit-in House caucus to focus on business in Latin America MORE (D-Texas).
Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot and killed late last month by a 28-year-old neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, who had followed Martin in his car as the teenager walked through a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman said he acted in self defense after Martin punched him in the nose and smashed his head into the ground, according to local reports citing local authorities.
Zimmerman's gun was confiscated but he was not arrested, fueling an outcry from civil rights advocates and sparking a public debate over racial profiling, gun laws and vigilantism that's moved all the way to Capitol Hill.
Martin was African American and Zimmerman is Hispanic.
In protests and vigils nationwide, thousands of people have called for Zimmerman's arrest, and a number of House Democrats — including the leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus — called last week for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the shooting as a hate crime.
The DOJ and FBI have since launched an investigation, and President Obama stepped into the debate on Friday, calling it "imperative" that investigators "figure out exactly how this tragedy happened."
"If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said.
On Monday, Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to all members of the panel inviting them to attend Tuesday's event on racial profiling, though it's unclear if any Republicans will attend.
The office of Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, did not respond to requests for comment.