Actual Washington Post Headline: Could Black Americans Qualify As Refugees?

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An opinion piece published in The Washington Post this weekend argues that if black people in the United States were from another country, they would receive asylum under U.S. law.

“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,” writes Raha Jorjani. “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.”

No, Jorjani isn’t talking about some foreign country with an oppressive dictator. He’s talking about black people right here in America.

The immigration lawyer says that if his his hypothetical client had he been from any other country, he would most certainly qualify as a refugee in the United States because the hypothetical client was part of an ethnic community whose members “fear being harmed, tortured or killed by police or prison guards.”

Jorjani details how, over the past decades, he has represented and advised hundreds of non-citizens facing deportation. To win them asylum, he proved that they fear future persecution by their governments– similar to black people in the United States.

“Black Americans know the risk of unjust imprisonment and physical harm all too well,” Jorjani claims.

The human rights record of the United States, according to Jorjani, is no better than that of countries that routinely persecute ethnic and religious groups within their own borders.

To make the case for black persecution in America one wouldn’t need to look all the way back to slavery, Jorjani says: Just look at current statistics on the number of black people killed by police.

“African Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, but they accounted for 31 percent of people killed by police in 2012,” Jorjani wrote, citing FBI statistics on crime.

Those same statistics show that black people, who make up 13 percent of the population, committed 4,203 murders, while white people, 63 percent of the U.S. population, committed 4,101.

Jorjani goes on to say the current number of black men in prison, on probation, or on parole — 1.6 million — is double the number who were enslaved in 1850.

According to the 1850 census, there were 3.6 million black slaves in the United States, including roughly 3.2 million slaves. In 2010, there were more than 37 million black people in America.

“This country is dangerous for black people,” Jorjani wrote. “Black parents live with an ever-present fear that their children will become victims of state violence and terror on the basis of race.”

After citing some recent cases of black people who died at the hands of police, including Walter Scott, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Jorjani claims that if they were still alive, all of these people would be able to demonstrate a “well-founded fear” of persecution at the hands of their government.

“Black Americans should not have to flee this country to seek refuge,” Jorjani wrote. He failed, though, to present a country in which they could seek asylum.

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