ICE Detained Journalist For A Year After He Covered An Anti-ICE Protest

Manuel DuranMugshot courtesy of Fox 13

Manuel Duran has been detained for a year and faces being sent home to El Salvador, where he may face persecution.

According to Newsweek, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested and imprisoned a journalist who was covering an anti-ICE protest. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., the journalist has launched a federal court petition which argues that his detention, which has now lasted a year, is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is representing Manuel Duran, the Memphis reporter. SPLC released a statement which said Duran’s detention “has not been easy.”

"Being detained has affected me psychologically because the process is so uncertain, and I don’t know if I will get out soon or if it will take more time," the journalist said. "I miss my work and I miss being able to help my community."

On Wednesday, the journalist had been arrested one year ago. That same day he filed a habeas petition in Alabama federal court. He sought to be released from the Alabama detention center where he is being held, arguing that his detention is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

On April 3, 2018 Duran covered an anti-ICE program and was arrested by local authorities. He was charged with disorderly conduct for blocking a highway during the protest. Duran, then 42, was one of nine people arrested at the demonstration.

On April 5, the charges against him were dropped and he was granted permission to leave the Shelby County Jail where he was being held. When he left the jail, ICE agents were already waiting to arrest him for his own immigration status.

ICE spokesperson Bryan D. Cov said the agency arrested Duran for his being an “unlawfully present El Salvadoran national.” Cox added that Duran was already ordered to leave the U.S. by a federal immigration judge in 2007 when Duran didn’t appear for his court date.

"He has been an immigration fugitive since that time" and remains in ICE custody "pending removal," Cox said.

Yet, the SPLC gave a statement saying that "a year after his arrest, and despite court rulings indicating he has meritorious claims for relief from deportation, Duran still finds himself detained by ICE and separated from his family."

The SPLC said that the federal appeals court sent Duran’s case to the Board of Immigration Appeals. They wanted a thorough look at the case, to see if Duran might face persecution if he returned to his home country of El Salvador.

Reporters Without Borders says that members of the media "are among the victims of the widespread violence in El Salvador, one of the world's most dangerous countries."

"Several journalists have been murdered or physically attacked in recent years," the organization states, continuing, "the freedom to inform has steadily lost ground since Salvador Sánchez Cerén’s election as president in 2014."

"He has accused the media of waging a 'campaign of psychological terror' against his government and has himself violated the rules on access to information," the organization states.

"Duran’s case is a prime example of a deportation system where immigrants with valid claims for relief and who demonstrate strong communities ties are nevertheless held in indefinite detention as a method of dissuading them from pursuing their claims," the SPLC said. "In fact, ICE could, at any time, release Duran from detention as an exercise of its prosecutorial discretion."