Group claims journalist was arrested, detained by ICE for his reporting

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is pushing for the release of a journalist they say was arrested by Memphis police and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in retaliation for critical reporting.

Manual Duran is a native of El Salvador and is a well-known reporter in Memphis for the Spanish-language publication Memphis Noticias, according to a statement published Sunday.


Duran was arrested on April 3 while reporting on a Memphis event related to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., which included a protest of local law enforcement’s practices.

Duran recorded the moments prior to his arrest.

The SPLC claims Duran was arrested for exposing ties between local police and ICE.

Duran was charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of a highway or passageway. Two days after his arrest and while he was still in jail, a judge dismissed the case.

However, Duran was not released from the Shelby County jail and was instead turned over to ICE, the SPLC said.

“On the bus, he was shackled by his wrists, ankles and waist, and was forced to endure the eight-hour ride without access to a bathroom,” the statement said.

ICE spokesman Bryan D. Cox told The Commercial Appeal that Duran failed to appear to a 2007 court date in Atlanta and an immigration judge ordered his deportation. 

Duran’s attorneys claim he never received a notice to appear that day and filed a motion to have a court reopen the case. 

Duran was transferred to the LaSalle Detention Center in Jena, La., and has been granted a temporary delay of deportation, Memphis Noticias reported. 

“These actions were done at the expense of local taxpayers and at a time when trust is needed more than ever within the community,” said Mauricio Calvo, executive director of Latino Memphis. “Working with federal agencies that use our local tax dollars to house immigrants for non-criminal violations for longer than necessary undermines our city and county's autonomy to make decisions that make sense for us.”

Michelle Lapointe, acting deputy legal director for the SPLC, said Duran’s arrest was retaliation.

“His unlawful arrest and unconstitutional detention only serve to silence free speech and press, and create more fear and mistrust of law enforcement in immigrant communities,” Lapointe said.

At a press conference on Monday, Duran’s girlfriend read a statement from Duran.

“This is a cruel system that criminalizes people who pose no danger to this country," Duran wrote. "My greatest challenge will be to continue working for my people, no matter where I’m at.”

The SPLC has filed a formal petition against the Department of Homeland Security, ICE and the warden of the LaSalle Detention Center for Duran's release.