Mexican journalist freed by ICE, joins University of Michigan as fellow
After being detained at an immigrant detention center for nearly eight months, Mexican journalist Emilio Gutierrez Soto will join the 2018-19 Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists class at the University of Michigan. Gutierrez, who will be a Senior Press Freedom Fellow at Wallace House, and his son, Oscar, were freed July 26 from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Texas.
“With so many challenges to press freedom, and in the midst of a crisis around immigration policy, it is easy to feel powerless,” said Knight-Wallace Fellowship director Lynette Clemetson, who met with Gutierrez in April at the El Paso, Texas detention facility to invite him to join the program. “Emilio’s release, due to the efforts of many, is a reminder that we all can do something to effect change.”
Gutierrez and his son were released a day before a federal judge’s deadline for U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials to produce documents explaining why the journalist was detained. Though Gutierrez was released by ICE, he has not been granted asylum, National Press Club Freedom Fellow Kathy Kiely said.
“We’re extremely happy, but there was no settlement agreement reached,” Kiely said. “We have been talking to the government about settling the case and discussing the terms of the settlement, but they never responded to that. In the end, they didn’t agree to anything, they just released him. On July 10, the judge issued an order citing constitutional protections of free speech and press freedom in raising concerns about immigration officials’ treatment of Gutierrez.
In 2017, an immigration judge in El Paso denied Gutierrez’s asylum request and he was scheduled for deportation. The deportation was halted after protests from numerous journalism organizations including The National Press Club, Reporters Without Borders and the American Society of News Editors.
Gutierrez entered the country 10 years ago seeking asylum after his reporting on corruption in his home country made him the target of death threats. He and his son had been held in an ICE detention facility near El Paso, Texas since December. He was previously denied asylum and is still in the process of scheduling an appeal.
“He did everything that the immigration officials say refugees should do,” Kiely said. “He came in through a port of entry, he declared himself, asked for asylum, he’s gone to every immigration check-in. Why are they spending so much of our taxpayer resources if he’s not a bad guy?” While Gutierrez’s asylum status remains unclear, plans are moving forward for him to be a part of the fellowship at UM in the fall, Kiely said.
“Wallace House, the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor community are eager to receive Gutierrez and his son as the family works to resume their life in the U.S. and Gutierrez has the opportunity to reconnect with journalism,” Clemetson said.
The Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists is one of several organizations that signed amicus briefs organized by The National Press Club in support of Gutierrez’s case. While at UM, Gutierrez will study issues related to global press freedom and safety.
“it is useless to close the gates against ideas: they overlap them.”
-klemens von metternich
credits: martin slagder, ann arbor news, m-live, reporters without borders