On April 13, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a petition calling for the release of journalist Manuel Duran from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center, saying that his “arrest and detention were an effort to suppress his reporting.” Duran’s case follows the arrests of many other immigrants who have spoken out against ICE’s practices, spurring many observers to complain that the agency is retaliating to suppress criticism.
Duran, an experienced journalist and owner of the Spanish-language newspaper Memphis Noticias, was arrested on April 3 as he covered protests over ICE’s mistreatment of immigrants. Charges against Duran were dismissed, but Memphis police transferred him to ICE custody in response to a detainer request. On April 6, he was brought to an immigrant detention center in Louisiana where he’s still being held. Duran’s paper has published a number of articles critical of ICE, and even though he has never been arrested for a felony -- and thus likely would not have been kept in detention prior to the Trump administration -- new policies have increased deportation proceedings in cases like his.
Many other immigrant activists have met a similar fate because of these new policies. The arrests of immigrant rights leaders Jean Montrevil and Ravi Ragbir sparked a federal lawsuit alleging that ICE was unconstitutionally targeting such activists “for surveillance and deportation.” Activist Alejandra Pablos was abruptly detained after a routine ICE check-in. Advocates of Eliseo Jurado say he was detained in retaliation for his wife’s advocacy. Maru Mora-Villalpando reportedly came to ICE’s attention after being cited in a local newspaper and participating in immigrant rights protests and programs. ICE also targeted Baltazar “Rosas” Aburto Gutierrez after The Seattle Times quoted him in an article about increased immigration enforcement. And Daniela Vargas, a DACA beneficiary whose status expired in November, was arrested shortly after she spoke at a press conference in support of immigrants’ rights.
These cases paint a picture of a government agency retaliating against those who attempt to provide oversight. Yet many mainstream media outlets have shown an unwillingness to actively report on immigration issues, allowing right-wing outlets, which routinely trivialize immigrants’ rights, to drive the coverage. Such outlets have provided a safe space for acting ICE director Thomas Homan to spout lies about ICE raids, attack those who oppose the agency’s abusive tactics, and cheerlead more broadly for ICE’s cruel immigration sweeps. For their part, Spanish-language media are keen on exposing ICE abuse, but Duran’s arrest opens up yet another obstacle these journalists and activists face in speaking truth to power.