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SPLC criticizes judge’s denial of bond for journalist whose work challenged ICE

The SPLC criticized an immigration judge’s decision today to deny bond for Spanish-language journalist Manuel Duran.

The denial means that Duran – who was unlawfully arrested and detained in retaliation for reporting on controversial issues related to law enforcement in Tennessee – will remain in detention while lawyers continue to argue his asylum case. 

“This morning, Manuel Duran was denied bond by an immigration judge in Jena, Louisiana,” said Gracie Willis, staff attorney for the SPLC. “While the judge did not question Mr. Duran’s deep connection to his community in Memphis, he did not believe the immigration laws give him authority to grant a bond. We disagree. Mr. Duran has already spent nine months in detention.”

Duran has been detained at LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana, after working as a reporter in Memphis, Tennessee, for a decade. The SPLC took his case after he was taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody following his arrest by Memphis police in April 2018.

In November 2018, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of removal for Duran. Before the stay was granted, Duran could have been deported at any time.

“The prolonged detention of a journalist who has been granted a stay of removal by a higher court is unjust, unreasonable, and a waste of resources,” Willis said. “ICE has the discretion to release Manuel, but to date has denied every request. We are heartbroken that Mr. Duran will continue to be separated from his family and community despite his strong claims for asylum. This decision further underscores the injustice of our immigration and asylum systems.”

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, 2018, 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.