• Lawyers say Latino journalist's arrest was retaliation, file new petition to fight deportation

    By: Zach Crenshaw

    Updated:

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - New efforts tonight to prevent Latino journalist Manuel Duran from being deported.

    Duran is detained at an ICE facility in Louisiana, but his lawyers are fighting for his release.

    RELATED: Journalist arrested during protest now in custody of immigration agents

    The Southern Poverty Law Center recently filed a new federal petition to free Duran.

    The attorney’s argument was that Duran should have never been arrested outside 201 Poplar on April 3rd. They said Duran was targeted by local police because he was critical in some of his reporting. 

    “Manuel was retaliated against by local law-enforcement and the federal government, simply for doing his job as a journalist,” said Michelle Lapoint, a Senior Staff Attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Duran’s lawyers said they hope a judge will order his immediate release from ICE custody, so he can fight his deportation case from his Memphis home.

    Every two days Manuel Duran’s longtime girlfriend, Melisa, makes the roughly seven-hour drive to the ICE detention facility in Jena, Louisiana. The trips and constant fear of deportation are starting to take their toll. 

    “I’m tired, I haven't slept since April 3. I've barely eat anymore. And I travel back-and-forth from Memphis to Louisiana every two days. So, it's not easy,” she said.

    Melisa said Manuel is trying to remain positive.

    More than $15,000 has been raised for his potential bond, as of Monday afternoon.

    For the first time since being detained, we heard from Manuel Duran, whose statement was read aloud outside 201.

    “I cannot thank you enough for the support I have received since the moment of my arrest and subsequent transfer and incarceration in Louisiana,” his girlfriend read to the crowd of supporters and journalists.

    The support has been widespread. The Southern Poverty Law Center and Latino Memphis are representing Manuel. They have already filed a motion in Atlanta’s Immigration Court requesting for a new trial.

    Duran was ordered to be deported by an Atlanta Immigration judge back in 2007, after being caught crossing the border. 

    He did not show for the 2007 hearing.

    Lawyers argue he was never notified about that court hearing, so he could not attend. They also said he deserves a new trial because of the danger he could be in if deported back to El Salvador.

    “My destiny now lies in the hands of an immigration judge in Atlanta. Someone I have never met and someone who does not know my story,” said Duran, through a statement. 

    As Duran waits, he is still working as a journalist. Telling stories of his cell mates like Jorge.

    “He has been in jail for three months. He has three very young children; four, five and ten. One of them has a heart problem. But Jorge will be deported as soon as travel is allowed by his country's consulate,” said Duran in the statement.

    The group outside 201 Monday was trying to make sure Manuel can keep reporting on stories in Memphis, not El Salvador.

    RELATED: 7 arrested during "Rolling Block Party"

    It is unclear when courts will rule on the deportation motion or the federal petition.

    In the meantime, Duran’s deportation has been delayed until the Atlanta judge rules on the motion.

    The Memphis Police Department responded to the allegations levied against them by Duran’s lawyers. In statement to FOX13, an MPD spokesperson said:

    “At no time do we target individuals based on their criticism and/or opinion of the Memphis Police Department. As it relates specifically to the arrests at 201 Poplar Avenue, the officers responded to an unpermitted protest, issued lawful orders, made probable cause arrests, and acted within their authority.”

    To read Manuel Duran's full story, click here

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