On World Press Freedom Day, Human Rights First Urges DHS to Release Detained Award-Winning Mexican Journalist Asylum Seeker
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release on parole persecuted Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto and to stipulate that his case merits a grant of asylum. Gutiérrez is seeking asylum and is currently detained. The call came in a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Neilsen, expressing deep concern about the ongoing detention of the award-winning journalist despite his compliance with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and well-documented evidence of persecution in Mexico.
“Mr. Gutiérrez has been detained for far too long,” wrote Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “He sought asylum at a U.S. port of entry on June 16, 2008, fleeing grave dangers after exposing military corruption. Despite Mr. Gutierrez’s compliance with prior ICE check-ins and extensive community support—from church and community members, and from leading organizations that work to promote press freedom and protect journalists—ICE has refused to release Mr. Gutierrez and his son from detention. They pose no danger to the community and are not a flight risk.”
When Mr. Gutiérrez and his son first sought asylum in June 2008, fleeing grave dangers after exposing military corruption, the boy—then a minor—was separated from his father, treated as an unaccompanied minor, and transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Mr. Gutiérrez was held in U.S. immigration detention for seven months. After being paroled, he complied with the requirement that he check in regularly with ICE, never missing an appointment. ICE again took Mr. Gutiérrez and his son into custody at a December 07, 2017 check-in appointment. Mr. Gutierrez has already spent eleven months in U.S. immigration jail, wearing prison uniforms and enduring conditions essentially identical to those in criminal correctional facilities. Although he and his son have filed a petition for habeas corpus contesting the reasons for their detention, DHS has the authority to release them. Although an immigration judge denied their asylum claim, that decision is on appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals, which has stayed their deportation.
Mr. Gutiérrez’s work as a journalist, and the dangers he faces if returned to Mexico, have been documented by the National Press Club, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders. In October 2017, the National Press Club selected Mr. Gutiérrez to accept the John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award on behalf of Mexico’s journalists. Just this week, the University of Michigan’s Knight-Wallace House announced it is awarding Mr. Gutiérrez the prestigious Knight-Wallace Fellowship for Journalism. Today, to mark World Press Freedom Day, the National Press Club will highlight the cases of three at risk journalists globally, including Mr. Gutiérrez.
“In 2017, only Syria and Iraq had a higher rate of journalist killings than Mexico,” added Massimino. “We urge DHS to release Mr. Gutiérrez and his son from detention on humanitarian parole and stipulate that Mr. Gutiérrez merits a grant of asylum.”