Could black people in the U.S. qualify as refugees?

Over the past decade, I’ve represented and advised hundreds of noncitizens facing deportation. Many feared persecution in their home countries and sought protection in the United States. To win them asylum status and the right to stay, I showed that my clients had a well-founded fear of future persecution by the government or by groups that the government was unable or unwilling to control. In one case, I successfully argued that if my client returned to his home country, he could be unjustly imprisoned and physically harmed on the basis of his religious beliefs. Black Americans know the risk of unjust imprisonment and physical harm all too well.

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?