America may be debating for decades to come whether or not Georgia executed an innocent man on the night of September 21, 2011. One might think that if 7 of the witnesses against Troy Davis at his trial 20 years ago for the killing of an off-duty policeman were said to have recanted their testimony and 3 of the jurors also reportedly recanted their verdict, taken together with doubts about the supposed ballistic evidence against him, that might have been enough to justify reopening the case and granting a new trial.
But this is not the place to argue about the legalities of America's criminal justice system. Nor is it the place to argue about whether the death penalty is ever justified, even though if it ever is, another execution in Texas that took place on the same night, of a white man who had deliberately chained a black youth to his car and dragged him to his death, would be a good example.
But while the evidence against Troy Davis may have been murky, one fact is clear beyond any reasonable doubt. If Troy Davis had been white, he would most likely still be alive today. He might never have been convicted at all, or even charged, let alone executed. True, people of color are no longer lynched in Georgia. But to say that any Southern state has a truly color-blind justice system (or any state outside the South, for that matter), would be simply absurd.
It would be equally absurd to say that America has a color-blind immigration system. True, we no longer have the Chinese exclusion laws or the "Nordics" - only 1924 "national origins" quotas Immigration Act. But we do have 11 million men, women and children, most of them Latino, Asian, Caribbean, African or Middle Eastern, who are in this country without legal authorization.
Many Americans, especially in one of our two major political parties, are screaming for them all to be deported. An administration run by the other political party is actually doing the dirty work of locking them up in hell holes known as immigration jails, breaking up their families and kicking them out at the highest rate in recent history. Would this be even imaginable if most of these unauthorized immigrants were white? Anyone who thinks that Knows Nothing (no pun intended) about the history of immigration in this Nation of Immigrants, or about the prevalence of American racism today.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.