Knight Center
Knight Center

JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Mexican journalist denied asylum nine years after fleeing to U.S. because of death threats




By Teresa Mioli and César López Linares

Nine years after he fled to the United States out of fear for his life, former Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto has been denied asylum in an El Paso immigration court.

Emilio Gutiérrez Soto (Personal photo)

Gutiérrez, a former reporter at El Diario del Noroeste in the state of Chihuahua, finally had the opportunity to plead his case to a judge on Nov. 14, 2016 after years of postponements.

Closing statements were turned in by the journalist's team in late January 2017 and a decision from the judge was planned for March. However, that was also delayed and reset for July, when Gutiérrez was informed his claim was denied.

“He simply dismissed all the arguments, put them in the trash can and denied the asylum,” Gutiérrez told the Knight Center.

Gutiérrez said he is “very depressed…I feel very sad and I am very disappointed in the immigration authorities, especially the policies that the United States exercises,” the former reporter added.

He said the U.S. polices do not consider the thousands of deaths and displacements that have taken place in Mexico since former President Felipe Calderón began the War on Drugs in 2006.

Gutiérrez said he will appeal the decision, even going to the Supreme Court if necessary.

The former reporter and his son fled his home country in June 2008 after someone notified him that the military was planning to kill him. It apparently stemmed from his reporting on alleged abuses against civilians by members of the military.

Despite turning himself into U.S. authorities after crossing that country’s border with Mexico, Gutiérrez then spent more than seven months in detention before being released.

He told the Knight Center late last year that his life in the U.S. has been “extremely difficult.” Gutiérrez said that the lethal violence against journalists in Mexico is a reminder of the fate that potentially awaited him at home.

This year alone, seven journalists have been killed in Mexico. Most recently, the remains of journalist Salvador Adame Pardo were found six weeks after he was abducted from Michoacán.

Finding a haven in the U.S. after fleeing this kind of violence is not guaranteed. 

Martín Méndez Pineda, a journalist from the state of Guerrero, voluntarily returned to Mexico in May of this year after his attempt to apply for asylum at the El Paso, Texas border port of entry landed him in detention. After 100 days in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, during which he said he faced “maltreatment, humiliation and abuse by local authorities,” Méndez waived his claim and left the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 13.4 percent of all asylum cases (not just those involving journalists) were granted in 2016, compared to 21.9 percent of cases in 2012. Last year alone, 12,831 cases were received from Mexico, and just 464 (3.6 percent) were granted.



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