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SPLC wins temporary stay for journalist whose work challenged ICE

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week postponed the removal of Spanish-language journalist Manuel Duran for two weeks.

Until yesterday’s postponement, Duran – who was unlawfully arrested and detained in retaliation for reporting on controversial issues related to law enforcement in Tennessee – could have been deported at any time.

“We are encouraged that the Eleventh Circuit has postponed action on Manuel’s removal for two weeks and that it is considering our legal arguments,” said Mary Bauer, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “We believe Manuel faces grave danger if removed to El Salvador and that removal before his case is fully heard is an affront to the First Amendment. Given this danger and the outrageous facts of his arrest, we will do everything to protect him and his First Amendment right of freedom of the press.”

Duran – whose stay of removal is only temporary – is like thousands of other immigrants facing deportation. Held captive, they are forced to endure cruel treatment that is often too much to bear.   

Duran has been detained for over seven months at LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana, after working as a reporter in Memphis, Tennessee, for more than 10 years. The SPLC took his case after he was placed in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody following his arrest by Memphis police in April.

Duran, a respected reporter who wrote for the Spanish-language publication he founded – Memphis Noticias – was known for his investigative journalism. His work frequently highlighted issues of importance to Memphis’ Spanish-speaking community, including local law enforcement’s collaboration with ICE.

On April 3, Duran was covering a Memphis event relating to the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The demonstration included a protest of local law enforcement’s practice of detaining suspected immigrants and handing them over to ICE.

During the event, Duran wore his yellow press badge and did not engage in the protest. He was following police orders to step away from the protesters when an officer pointed to him and yelled, “Get him, guys.”

Because his writing exposed ties between local police and ICE in detaining immigrants, Duran was singled out and arrested amid a pool of other journalists. He was falsely accused of disorderly conduct and obstructing traffic.

Photo by Melisa Valdez.