One Year After Arrest, Memphis Journalist Still in ICE Custody, Showing the Logjam and Injustice of U.S. Immigration System

Memphis, Tenn. – On April 3, 2018, journalist Manuel Duran was arrested while covering a Memphis protest focused on local law enforcement’s practice of detaining suspected immigrants and handing them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Duran’s previous investigative reporting had exposed this collusion between ICE and local law enforcement and its negative impact on Memphis communities.  A year after his arrest, and despite court rulings indicating he has meritorious grounds for immigration relief, Duran still finds himself detained by ICE and separated from his family. 

Today, Duran, represented by attorneys with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Adelante Alabama Worker Center, filed a habeas petition in federal court in Alabama seeking his release from the infamous Etowah County Detention Center, arguing that his year-long detention has become so excessive and prolonged that it violates immigration law and the United States Constitution.  

This morning, Manuel shared the following statement from the Etowah County Detention Center:

“I have been detained a year and regrettably, due to the circumstances of detention, it has not been easy for me.  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.  I miss my work and I miss being able to help my community, as this gave me a lot of satisfaction.”

Last week, the Eleventh Circuit granted the government’s motion to remand Duran’s case to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  The BIA must now reconsider the manner in which it evaluated evidence that journalists like Duran are being persecuted in El Salvador, as well as Duran’s other claims for relief.  

“While we hope that the Board will engage in a thorough review of the Immigration Judge’s decision, Duran’s case undeniably highlights an immigration system designed to punish and discourage immigrants seeking relief under the law,” said SPLC attorney Gracie Willis.  “Duran is just one of thousands of immigrants who have contributed extensively to their communities in the United States only to find themselves abruptly detained in prison with little recourse,” continued Willis.  

Willis says Duran’s prolonged detention is “unjust, unreasonable, and a waste of resources.”  Duran’s case is a prime example of a deportation system where noncitizens 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. In fact, ICE could, at any time, release Duran from detention as an exercise of its prosecutorial discretion.    

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