May 24, 2018 – Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez has won a new hearing on his request for asylum in the U.S., press freedom organizations have reported. The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ordered the new hearing, saying a judge must to consider additional evidence supporting the request. The Department of Homeland Security opposed Gutiérrez’s appeal.
Attorneys for Gutiérrez and his son plan to renew their request that authorities free them from the Texas detention facility where they have been held since Dec. 7, 2017.
Gutiérrez fled Mexico in 2008 after his reporting on official corruption made him the target of death threats. A single parent, he brought Oscar, his then-15-year-old son, with him through an official port of entry on the U.S. border and requested asylum.
U.S. authorities initially determined that Gutiérrez had a “credible fear” of returning to his Mexico and allowed him to settle in New Mexico. Last summer, however, an El Paso immigration judge denied his asylum request, questioning his credentials as a journalist and the dangers facing him in Mexico.
In its friend-of-the-court brief, the National Press Club and other press freedom organizations offered evidence to support Gutierrez’s claims, including 155 pages of news stories he authored.
They also highlighted recent reports on the dangers facing journalists in Mexico, including a scathing United Nations survey that concluded the Mexican government is allowing reporters to be murdered with impunity.
Since the brief was filed, the Congressional Research Service issued a report about violence against Mexico’s journalists.
“Increasing violent crimes against journalists and the impunity enjoyed by those who perpetrate those crimes have led to journalistic self-censorship in Mexico, inhibiting people’s access to information, government accountability, and freedom of expression,” the report found.
Since ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) first attempted to deport Gutiérrez late last year — an action stopped by the BIA — several more journalists have been murdered in Mexico. The most recent victim, Juan Carlos Huerta, was shot outside his home May 15 in what the local governor described as an execution.
“The dangers facing journalists in Mexico are real and present,” said Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club’s nonprofit Journalism Institute. “We need to grant Emilio asylum and return the U.S. to its long and venerable tradition of providing protection for truth-tellers.”