By Mike Lillis - 08/09/12 09:46 PM EDT
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 has called on the Obama administration to take greater steps to protect Sikhs living in the United States.
The Texas Democrat says the recent shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin — just the latest in a string of attacks against members of the group since 9/11 — is indication that more needs to be done to shield Sikhs from violence.
"We cannot tolerate this in America," Jackson Lee wrote in the Aug. 8 letter. "This was not the first incident in the Sikh community and there are numerous others including an attack that occurred just days after the 2001 terrorist attack in which a Sikh owner of gas station in Mesa, Arizona was killed.
"Although they are small in numbers," she added, "they should be protected under our laws as any other citizens of this country."
She's hardly alone. In April, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) led a group of more than 90 House lawmakers in calling on Holder and the DOJ to monitor violence against Sikh-Americans. The group said post 9/11 attacks against Sikhs in Michigan, California, New York and Virginia demanded better vigilance.
"Given that this discrete community is so acutely susceptible to hate violence in the United States," the lawmakers wrote, "we believe it is critically important for authorities to devise means of tracking crimes committed against Sikhs."
Five Sikhs were killed during Sunday's shooting outside Milwaukee, where a single gunman allegedly entered a Sikh temple and began firing, silently and indiscriminately. Although the authorities have yet to name a motive, the suspected gunman, Wade Michael Page, had ties to white supremacist groups, and the FBI is investigating the massacre as an act of "domestic terrorism."
The death toll rose to six when Page, amid a shoot-out with police, took his own life in the temple parking lot, authorities said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups nationwide, said it had long-been following the activities of Page, who had neo-Nazi tattoos and a "white-power" heavy-metal band.
It remains unknown, however, if that background fueled Page's alleged decision to target members of the Sikh community — a group that's suffered a spike in attacks following 9/11, perhaps because the turbaned, bearded men are ofter mistaken for Muslims.
Jackson Lee urged the Obama administration combat the domestic attacks as seriously as it does foreign terrorists.
"Our nation is the most diverse on this earth," she wrote in her letter, "and we must be more proactive in identifying potential domestic terrorist whose sole goal is to wreak havoc on the American way of life in the 21st century."
Sunday's temple shooting came just 16 days after the massacre in Aurora, Colo., where a gunman, also allegedly acting alone, stormed into a sold-out movie theater and shot 70 people — killing 12 — during a midnight screening of the "Dark Knight Rises."
The Colorado shooting renewed the national debate over the effectiveness of the nation's gun laws, with a number of Democrats calling for tougher rules. Those calls have grown stronger in the wake of the Wisconsin tragedy.