After a multi-year legal battle, Duran’s release is a victory for freedom of the press
GADSDEN, Ala. – After 465 days in detention, journalist Manuel Duran was released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention today.
Duran, who was most recently held at the Etowah County Detention Center, will now be reunited with his fiancée in their hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. “I feel like I’m reborn,” Duran said moments after his release. “I am happy for this day. It has been a very difficult time but thanks to God, this is the day I waited for. I am grateful for my team, family, and my community for all the help.”
Duran was released after his attorneys with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Adelante Alabama Worker Center sought bond. He previously filed two petitions for habeas corpus. His case was reopened last week by the Board of Immigration Appeals after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent it back to the Board of Immigration Appeals with instructions to reconsider his claim that he is eligible for asylum.
Duran’s persistence represents a victory for free speech and journalists’ First Amendment rights. He was arrested in April 2018 while covering a Memphis protest focused on local law enforcement’s practice of detaining suspected immigrants and handing them over to ICE. His previous investigative reporting had exposed this collusion between ICE and local law enforcement and its negative impact on Memphis communities.
“We are thrilled that Manuel will finally be reunited with his family and community,” said Gracie Willis, an SPLC staff attorney representing Duran. “While Manuel’s release is cause for celebration, we are reminded that his struggle over the last 15 months is an indictment of an immigration system clearly designed to force immigrants seeking relief under the law to give up on their meritorious cases.
“The system not only wasted resources on Manuel’s lengthy detention, but it also showed Manuel, a Salvadoran journalist persecuted in his home country, that the United States does not live up to the ideals of freedom and refuge that our country so often espouses,” Willis said. “Manuel has never represented a flight risk. He is a public figure intent on pursuing his asylum case. Despite that, the government continued to jail him unnecessarily in the horrific conditions for which these detention centers have become notorious.”
Adelante Executive Director Jessica Vosburgh underscored the importance of Duran’s case. “Etowah is notorious as ICE’s long-term detention warehouse, where people are sent to destroy their hopes,” said Vosburgh, who also serves as Adelante’s legal director. “Manuel’s story reminds us of the importance of not giving up hope and the will to fight, even in the face of a virulently anti-immigrant federal administration.”
Duran’s case has received national attention as several major organizations focusing on human rights threats to journalists and freedom of the press around the world filed amicus briefs on his behalf, including the American Society of News Editors, Associated Press Media Editors, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, National Hispanic Media Coalition, PEN America, and Reporters Without Borders.
In addition to the SPLC and Adelante, Duran has been represented and supported by Latino Memphis.