Active Case

Manuel Duran Ortega v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, et al.

On April 3, 2018, journalist Manuel Duran was unlawfully arrested by Memphis police while reporting live at a peaceful demonstration connected with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Even after the charges were dropped, local officials handed him over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which swiftly removed Duran from Tennessee, incarcerated him in a detention center in Louisiana and began efforts to deport him.

He was targeted by Memphis police and ICE for reporting on controversial issues related to local law enforcement’s treatment of immigrants, including its collaboration with ICE. Duran, who was a TV reporter in his native El Salvador, became a well-known and respected reporter in Memphis, writing for the Spanish-language publication Memphis Noticias and posting reports on social media.

The April 3 demonstration covered by Duran included a protest of local law enforcement’s practice of detaining suspected immigrants and handing them over to ICE. He was wearing a press badge at the time and was the only member of the press arrested. Duran was jailed after being charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of a highway or passageway.

Two days later, the charges were dropped, and a judge dismissed the case. Duran, however, was not released from the Shelby County Jail. Instead, he was turned over to ICE and sent to LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Jena, Louisiana.

The SPLC fought for Duran’s freedom on two fronts. In the immigration courts, the SPLC filed a motion to reopen his immigration case, successfully staying his deportation. The motion to reopen argues that Duran should have an opportunity to present his claims for asylum based on the documented dangerous conditions for journalists in El Salvador.

In federal court, the SPLC filed a habeas petition for Duran’s release from immigration detention. The habeas petition argues that his arrest and detention violate his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and the press, his Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful arrest and detention, and his due process rights.