Jayne Fleming ’00 represented an East Bay woman granted asylum on grounds that she was politically persecuted when she was gang-raped by soldiers in her native Guatemala. The recent ruling by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals reversed a previous decision in 2002 involving Reina Garcia-Martinez, now a 31-year-old mother of three. Garcia-Martinez fled to the United States in 1993 after Guatemalan soldiers forced their way into her house, beat her parents and sexually assaulted her. Last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Garcia-Martinez was eligible to stay in the United States and sent the case back to the immigration board.
In its latest ruling, the immigration board said the gang rape was a form of torture in a country then torn by civil war and was not simply an individual criminal act. In a July 15 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Fleming, an associate at Reed Smith, said, “The point of the humanitarian grant is that if someone has experienced such horrific suffering, we don’t want to send them back, because it’s a memory that can’t be erased.”