On Refugee Standards and Mental Filters

By Dan Cadman on August 20, 2015

A few days ago, Raha Jorjani, an immigration attorney and sometime professor at the University of California-Davis Law School, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post offering her view that African Americans could qualify as refugees given the level of violence against them by police.

The piece was thought-provoking, but understandably resulted in a backlash from many who have pointed out that, in fact, the number of police-involved shootings and killings has gone substantially down over the years, and that in the African American community, black-on-black crime is a significant problem. One such response was penned by Jerome Hudson for Breitbart.com.

One of the things that I think has been missed by many who fiercely objected to the article is that Jorjani is telling the truth.

What she has told the public is that the standard she evokes is exactly the mental filter that is used not only by immigration lawyers, but also by the corps of officers who adjudicate claims for asylum and refugee status by aliens, even though all of the objections leveled by Hudson in his response are just as valid when applied abroad as they are in the United States.

There is no room for subtlety or nuance in a view such as Jorjani's: that one rogue cop doesn't equate to governmental persecution; or that the individual may have engaged in on-scene conduct that wittingly or unwittingly provoked a response, for instance from a nervous civil guard during a riot or period of community unrest; or that because no government anywhere, anytime can absolutely assure its citizenry they will not be on the receiving end of crime or violence and when it happens the victim shouldn't always be presumed to need shelter in the United States under our refugee/asylum laws.

Rather, in Jorjani's view and experience, such aliens will almost inevitably be able to successfully meet the "credible fear" test and ultimately avail themselves of asylum or refugee status.

This, I think, is the real lesson we should take from Jorjani's article, and it is a sobering one. What is more, in her role as professor, let us make no doubt that she (and others of her view) will be fostering such a line of thought among the next generation of immigration attorneys and asylum officers as well.

And in many ways it is an ironic line of thought, since the society into which these aliens will be placed has pretty much the same sets of flaws and imperfections as the one that they left, short of outright war — flaws and imperfections that Jorjani herself clearly sees, although it isn't so clear that she perceives the irony.