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.
What if, next, he told me he was from America? Black people in the United States face such racial violence that they could qualify as refugees. …
To make an asylum case for black persecution, I wouldn’t have to reach back to 400 years of slavery, lynching, segregation and Jim Crow. I would focus, instead, on the current prolific system of racist policing, mass incarceration and selective prosecution.