Knight Center
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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Court orders case reopened for Salvadoran journalist detained in U.S. for more than one year



A Salvadoran journalist who has been detained for 15 months by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), now has the possibility to request asylum and bond, according to a press release from his lawyers.

Manuel Durán. (Facebook).

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ordered the reopening of the case of journalist Manuel Durán, who said he fled El Salvador in 2006 due to death threats because of his journalistic work.

“Now, I am hopeful that things will continue to go well and I can soon be free. As always, I am thankful to those who have helped me,” Durán said in a press release, from the ICE detention center in Gadsen, Alabama, according to Memphis Noticias.

One of Durán’s lawyers, Gracie Willis from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported through the release that Durán could now request asylum in the U.S. According to the release, the journalist can now petition the court for a bond.

“We have long argued that his detention is unjust, unreasonable and a waste of resources. It is especially disturbing that he and so many others are continuing to be held indefinitely in remote immigration jails while the same agencies holding them claim they are overrun and require more jails to be built,” Willis said.

At the end of 2018, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals prevented Durán from being deported from the country. At the beginning of 2019, according to the SPLC press release, the 11th Circuit Court sent his case back to the BIA to review evidence of the dangers that journalists face in El Salvador.

The BIA rejected Durán’s request to cancel his removal order based on what he argued were errors in official forms.

However, the board said Durán showed conditions had changed for journalists in El Salvador and that he “articulated a reasonable likelihood that he may establish a well-founded fear of persecution on account of his anti-corruption political opinion and his membership in the proposed particular social group of ‘Salvadoran journalists.’”

Willis questioned that Durán had to wait 15 months and submit multiple appeals to finally be able to request asylum.

Organizations Latino Memphis and Adelante Alabama Worker Center also assist Durán with his legal defense.

Regarding the reopening of Durán’s case, Bryan Cox, spokesman for ICE, told the Knight Center, “this illustrates the extensive due process afforded to aliens in removal proceedings. ICE is now awaiting the outcome of his legal proceedings before the courts to determine appropriate future steps.”

Durán collaborated in various U.S. media as a reporter until he founded the news site Memphis Noticias, which he directed until the moment of his arrest. The journalist, who does not have documents to remain in the U.S., was arrested on April 3, 2018 while covering a protest of the country’s immigration policies, according to local media reports. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF, for its acronym in French), he had press credentials.

He was accused of disorderly conduct and obstruction of a highway, but the charges were dismissed two days later. ICE detained him upon leaving that court on April 5, 2018. Since then, he has been detained and transferred between at least three different detention centers for migrants in the country.



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