At first glance it seems like a ridiculous question, but immigration attorney Raha Jorjani wonders if Black Americans could qualify as refugees based on this country’s history of racism and the recent killings of unarmed Black citizens by police.
Jorjani explains in an op-ed for the Washington Post:
Suppose a client walked into my office and told me that police officers in his country had choked a man to death over a petty crime. Suppose he said police fatally shot another man in the back as he ran away. That they arrested a woman during a traffic stop and placed her in jail, where she died three days later. That a 12-year-old boy in his country was shot and killed by the police as he played in the park.
Suppose he told me that all of those victims were from the same ethnic community — a community whose members fear being harmed, tortured or killed by police or prison guards. And that this is true in cities and towns across his nation. At that point, as an immigration lawyer, I’d tell him he had a strong claim for asylum protection under U.S. law.
According to U.S. asylum law, that persecution must be on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. In many cases, courts have said that violence by police officers, unjust imprisonment, rape, assault, beatings and confinement constitute persecution. Even nonphysical forms of harm, such as the deliberate imposition of severe economic disadvantage, psychological harm, or the deprivation of food, housing, employment or other essentials, help make the case. In one instance, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that an individual who had been arrested, held for three days and then falsely accused of a crime had been persecuted. In another case, it ruled that persecution included ethnic discrimination so severe that the petitioner was unable to find a job in his chosen field.
Does this sound familiar?
To back up the claim that Black Americans should qualify for political asylum, Jorjani details a linty of offenses, including the Justice Department’s report that police in Ferguson employed racist tactics, the time Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on a Black political organization’s headquarters, and the vast Black-White wealth gap.
But should Black folks really qualify as refugees?
Perhaps not, because as Jorjani concludes: “Black Americans should not have to flee this country to seek refuge.”
What do you think. Should Black Americans be able to seek asylum as refugees in other countries?