After five years awaiting a life-changing decision, a woman represented by a team of pro bono attorneys at Bass, Berry & Sims has finally been granted asylum. Although she has been able to work consistently since 2017 and support herself, her dream to attend college and work as an accountant has been on hold and she has lived with the fear of being forced to return to her home country where she and her family would face certain violent persecution.
The client, referred to the firm by Immigration Equality, had faced a lifetime of violent persecution starting in primary school in her home country of Jamaica because she was queer. At age 14 she was attacked by a mob of grown men, beaten, cut and stabbed while the police watched. She first fled to the United States in 2015, but had to return to Jamaica when her visa expired. When she was staying with her mother in 2016 men surrounded her mother’s house with guns demanding that she surrender to them. The client escaped and fled again to the United States to protect herself and her family. In 2017 she was able to relocate to the United States and to file for asylum which allowed her to remain in the United States and to work.
Despite the violence that she had experienced, obtaining asylum was not straightforward. Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Zach Baumann, who worked on the case, noted, “To win asylum for our client we faced a trend of skeptical cases and asylum decisions considering Jamaican LGBTQI+ claims. These denials of asylum have mistaken modest progress in LGBTQI+ toleration in Jamaica with a diminished need for asylum relief.”