RTDNA and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force, along with 15 other press freedom groups, filed a friend of the court brief March 19 in the case of Mexican journalist Emilio Gutierrez-Soto, urging the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals to grant him asylum in America.
Gutierrez and his son fled their home state of Chihuahua, Mexico, in 2008 after the journalist received death threats for reporting on corruption by some members of the Mexican military. He turned himself in to U.S. authorities at the New Mexico border and formally requested asylum. His case languished in the bureaucracy until 2016, when an immigration judge denied his request.
The March 19 amicus brief filed by RTDNA and the other organizations urged the appeals court to overturn that decision.
In November 2017, after living more than nine years in the U.S. with his fate in limbo, Gutierrez was suddenly summoned to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in El Paso, Texas, where he was threatened with immediate deportation.
At the time, RTDNA Executive Director Dan Shelley said, “Forcing Emilio Gutierrez to go back to Mexico is tantamount to giving him a death sentence. We call on the federal government to stop its apparently punitive efforts to deport him and put his safety in grave danger.”
Gutierrez sought a judge’s order prohibiting deportation, which was denied; his attorney appealed, and the order was stayed until a final disposition of his asylum request could be determined. However, Gutierrez and his son were ordered placed in an ICE detention center in El Paso, where they remain.
The new amicus brief cites a U.S. State Department letter which shows that Mexico is an even more dangerous place to be a journalist now than it was in 2008 when Gutierrez sought asylum:
More journalists were killed in Mexico in 2017 than in any previous year, making Mexico the most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist outside of war zones. Mexican journalists were sometimes subjected to physical attacks, harassment, and intimidation due to their reporting. Perpetrators of violence against journalists continued to act with impunity with few reports of successful investigation, arrest, or prosecution of suspects.
No date has been set for a hearing on Gutierrez’ asylum appeal, although a federal court has given ICE until April 6 to respond to a writ of habeas corpus that was filed earlier this month seeking the Gutierrezes’ release.
“RTDNA is proud to join the National Press Club and other press freedom groups in demanding not only that the U.S. government grant Gutierrez asylum, but that it release him and his son from detention immediately,” said Shelley. “There shouldn’t even be a dispute in this case as to whether this award-winning investigative journalist deserves the safe haven in the United States that our nation can provide.”
RTDNA formed the nonpartisan Voice of the First Amendment Task Force to defend against threats to the First Amendment and news media access, and to help the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives. RTDNA is a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the archive of record for threats against press freedom in America. Reach out to RTDNA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.