Yesha Callahan

Open Thead: Could Black People Qualify as Refugees Because of Racism & Police Violence?


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.

She continues:

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?

  1. August 18, 2015 - Reply

    You’re pushing it here. Sorry.

    • August 18, 2015 - Reply


      Right. She’s acting as if the things mentioned above don’t happen in other countries.

  2. August 18, 2015 - Reply

    Pretty much the last sentence. We were brought here and enslaved, we built the nation and its economy. As a whole we are not going anywhere, America hates owning up to its wrongful actions well our rightful presence is something they’ll just have to deal with as a result.

  3. August 18, 2015 - Reply

    His idea may seem far fetched to some, but I have been thinking that black people should consider leaving the us. I remember reading an article measuring black progress since the since the civil rights act was passed and in many ways, very little has improved for black people. Black unemployment is still double the national average, also more black children are in poverty today than they were in 2000 and since the 1980s, the black male incarceration rate has skyrocketed.

    There have been a few articles written recently by black American writers that basically say black people might want to explore our options outside the country.

  4. August 18, 2015 - Reply

    This is a very thought provoking article. As we all know, America was founded on the slavery of black people and on the genocide of the indigenous population (of the Americas). Even in our time, we witness water being restricted in the city of Detroit (which international groups have called a violation of international law) and an epidemic of police terrorism against unarmed black people. At the bare minimum, we should understand about our people internationally. That is why I feel great in my soul when I learn bout Africans, Afro-Brazilians, Afro-Caribbeans, and other members of our black African family.

    As for being refugees in other countries, it is up to the individual to make that determination. I respect those who choose to fight the evil system in America (and stay in America), so America can have justice. I respect those who voluntarily decide to leave America in order to expand their minds, not deal with the oppression of America, and to just be free to leave their own lives. More African Americans are traveling into Africa, Brazil, parts of Europe, and other places of the world. Traveling can build up the soul. Yet, oppression is an international problem. Racism and all forms of oppression are found in America, Europe, Africa, etc. So, what is best is for us to continue to fight injustice irrespective if we stay here in America or move into another country. That’s the most important point

    • August 18, 2015 - Reply

      well said, it would be extremely hard to just pack up & move out of the U.S., w/o having a comparable job & home to go to, granted we see very many fvcked up things going on in this country (racism/classism/sexism/ageism). I still think here is where we belong. Our ancestors, great-grandparents & grandparents and so many brave souls have done so much (some have died in the process) to pave a way for us to have the freedoms that we have today.

      I just feel awful that the state of the black race (black on black violence, and a host of other issues that plaque the race) is not what it could or should be (in terms of truly being a brother & sister to those that aren’t related to us, to be in the struggle for the good of the race (just like it was during the civil rights struggle) and not to have the current “crab in the barrel” mentality, not fighting & killing each other over utter nonsense and various other ills (drugs/alcohol, domestic abuse, access to healthcare, fatherless households, etc.) that plaque us).

      • August 18, 2015 - Reply


        Great Words Sister. One truth is that the struggle continues. In every era of American history, our people fought back. Harriet Tubman fought back against oppression. Ida B. Wells fought against lynching. Many Black Lives Matter activists are fighting against police brutality. Liberation is about knowledge of self. That doesn’t mean that we become selfish. That means that we know ourselves and our human value as black people. We are descendants of a strong people. No weak people survived the Maafa and slavery. No weak people survived Jim Crow. So, we definitely should treat each other as Brothers and Sisters. We have to constantly be involved to fight against black on black violence, drug addiction, domestic abuse, misogynoir, and other injustices found in our communities.

        Also, we have to give support to black organizations that are doing great work from mentorships to other programs that are helping black people too. After 1968, there was a growth of the black middle class and the black rich (via migrations, affirmative action, and the sacrifice of civil rights activism decades ago), but the masses of the black poor in America suffer a great deal of economic inequality and other problems. These problems must be addressed. Our ancestors lived and died here and we have the right to fight for freedom I America and throughout the Earth. The journey won’t be easy, but our lives are worth fighting for. Our human autonomy, our honor, and our wisdom should be respected and a’int nothing will turn us around.

    • August 19, 2015 - Reply

      Good points. White supremacy is global and it would be extremely difficult for black people to find a “racism free utopia”. Personally I have been exploring dual citizen options once I reduce my debt and enter semi-retirement.

      • August 19, 2015 - Reply

        @Chazz A

        This is why it is always important for us to have a Plan B and a Plan C when dealing with the issues of the world. There are more and more black African Americans traveling all over the globe. Oppression is a global phenomenon. Also, another thought came to my mind. We should encourage our people to establish economic, political, and social networks with black people internationally. Even if some people won’t go overseas, that person can study about black people globally and even find time to develop these networks.

        • August 19, 2015 - Reply

          You’re right. I began my plan B shortly after 9/11, as I learned the REAL truth behind the disaster and the people that caused it.
          Since then, I have built a good rapport with several Caribbean brothers and sisters in terms of entrepreneurship,investments. and relocation.

  5. August 18, 2015 - Reply

    But where would we seek refuge? I feel like it would be trading one lawn for another if you catch my drift of the grass may not be greener on the other side. Sorry but the anti-black sentiments is pretty much global and black people/culture aren’t monolithic so that is another factor you have to think about as well because you can’t omit one culture for another when deciding where to go. I get where the article was trying to go but I don’t think that is a lasting fix. Now, I do agree that we should exercise our options of whether or not to stay in America or explore other countries to live especially if the government isn’t listening to our needs.

  6. August 18, 2015 - Reply

    I can certainly understand the desire to find a home where we won’t be oppressed and disenfranchised, however, since anti-Blackness is a global scourge, I fear we’ll find few places where we would be able to integrate seamlessly. Besides, we’ve worked too long and hard to build this country and leaving would be giving the racists exactly what they want. Ultimately, I can’t see this as a viable option.

  7. August 19, 2015 - Reply

    My sister lives outside of the US. If I could take my $$, I wouldn’t mind spending 1/2 the year abroad. But let’s be real, being AMERICAN blunts the worst effects of racism elsewhere.

    There are many Black refugees sinking to the bottom of the Mediterranean (which is beautiful) as we speak.

  8. August 20, 2015 - Reply

    One problem with that is that many countries HATE refugees. Really, truly hate them and scapegoat/target them. So, if folks just up and go somewhere else on refugee status, they may find that they haven’t gone somewhere better – they may be treated the same or likely worse. And some countries, like Japan, for example, are very, very strict on criteria for admitting immigrants/giving citizenship, or even for non-permanent stays (from my personal experience), let alone refugees.

  9. August 20, 2015 - Reply

    Where would we go? Anti blackness is worldwide. We need to stay where we are and make a change.

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