December 27, 2006

Jenner & Block recently obtained asylum in the United States for a pro bono client who has worked her entire adult life as an advocate on behalf of the Garifuna, the indigenous black peoples of Honduras.  Ms. Gregoria Flores has been a human rights and land rights activist for the past 15 years.

The Garifuna have been the subject of widespread persecution by powerful governmental interests in Honduras who wish to seize ancestral Garifuna lands to develop resorts for the booming tourist industry.  For years, Ms. Flores’s colleagues have been systematically harassed, threatened, wrongfully imprisoned, and murdered because of their advocacy on behalf of the Garifuna.

On May 30, 2005, Ms. Flores was approached by a man dressed in a security uniform at a traffic stop and shot, point blank, through the windshield of her car with an exploding bullet.  The incident resulted in serious and life-threatening injuries and put in jeopardy Ms. Flores’s human rights and land rights missions in Honduras.  Fearing for her life, she fled Honduras shortly after the incident in hopes of obtaining asylum in the U.S. in order to safely continue her advocacy for the Garifuna.

Jenner & Block Associate Peter H. Hanna drafted the client’s application for asylum, as well as the supporting affidavits, with support from Jenner & Block Partners Ronald M. Daignault and Gianni P. Servodidio, who served as supervisory attorneys on this pro bono matter.  The application carefully accounted for her whereabouts on her return trips to Honduras and documented the worsening country conditions to support the reasonableness of her fear of persecution if she returned on a permanent basis.  After a hearing before the asylum office, the client was granted asylum on December 20.