Threatened Mexican reporter whose asylum claim was denied by U.S. now faces deportation

Fifteen U.S. journalist and freedom of expression organizations released a joint letter urging U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to “suspend efforts” to deport Emilio Gutiérrez, a former Mexican reporter who fled to the U.S. nine years ago out of fear for his life.

On Nov. 16, ICE told Gutiérrez-Soto that he and his son would be deported after his asylum claim was denied, according to the El Paso Times. Gutiérrez was called for a meeting with ICE, and authorities “told his lawyer they wanted to deport him that day,” according to a joint letter signed by the National Press Club (NPC) and the North American branch of Reporters Without Borders, as well as various press freedom and immigration justice advocates. The El Paso Times added that ICE accepted an application for the stay of removal on Nov. 16, but he was given an ankle monitor.

The following day, an El Paso, Texas immigration judge refused an emergency motion to stay his deportation.

Gutiérrez-Soto, a former reporter at Diario del Noroeste in the state of Chihuahua, affirmed to the Knight Center on Nov. 20 that he is at risk.

“Right now we are praying, another motion was presented before the appeals court, and we are waiting for a resolution. If the resolution is positive, many thanks. If the resolution is negative, also a thousand thanks,” he said. “And the only thing I’m asking is that they give us the opportunity to be able to fix our things here in the United States, to say goodbye to our new family. To have the opportunity to leave without financial debts, if it’s possible.”

Gutiérrez-Soto and his son turned themselves into U.S. authorities in June 2008 at the U.S.-Mexico border after the journalist was told the Mexican military was planning to kill him. The threats were apparently due to his reporting on alleged abuses against civilians by military members. He said that prior to fleeing the country, individuals self-identified as soldiers raided his home and held him at gunpoint.

Despite his request for asylum, Gutiérrez-Soto spent more than seven months in detention and his son was held separately for a shorter period of time.

Prior to his merit hearing on his asylum claim in November 2016, the former journalist told the Knight Center his life in the U.S. had been “extremely difficult.” Yet, despite challenges, he had hope his case would have a positive outcome.

The former journalist was denied asylum in an El Paso immigration court in July 2017 after years of postponements in his case. After that decision, Gutiérrez-Soto said he was sad, depressed and disappointed.

“Gutiérrez fled his country because his reporting jeopardized him and his family and then faced years of bureaucratic indifference before now being threatened with removal,” said NPC President Jeff Ballou, according to the recently released joint organizational letter. “He deserves better from a country that has enshrined protections for the press in the First Amendment of its Constitution.”

The organizations called for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice “to reconsider this deportation order.”

“We also ask the Trump administration and all members of Congress to let the Department know that this case not only puts an individual reporter in danger, but also could have a chilling effect on truth-telling everywhere.”

The NPC added that just six weeks ago, Gutiérrez-Soto accepted a Freedom of the Press award from the organization just six weeks ago on behalf of the Mexican press.


*César López Linares assisted with the reporting for this story.