A Latino journalist in Memphis was arrested by police at an immigration protest in April. The charges against him by the city were dropped — but ICE detained him as he was leaving the county jail, an act he and his lawyers believe was a deliberate retaliation for his coverage of police misconduct.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Manuel Duran, founder of the Spanish-language newspaper Memphis Noticias, said he was far from the only credentialed member of the press at an immigration protest in April when police arrested him for obstructing a street and “disorderly conduct” — and mentioned in their report that he is not a documented citizen.
Video from the incident corroborated his claim, and although Memphis PD charges were dropped, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were waiting for him when he was released from the Shelby County jailhouse.
The Beast noted in its report that it wasn’t the first time Duran had seen such alleged collaboration between Memphis PD and ICE, nor the first time he and his publication had reported on embarrassing stories involving the department.
A year prior to its founder’s arrest, “Memphis Noticias published a video interview with a woman whose friend was arrested by Memphis Police and transferred to ICE custody despite promises from Mayor Jim Strickland that the city’s government was not cooperating with ICE.”
“There are three cases already confirmed in some manner in which people are guaranteeing that ‘yes, the Memphis police are involved with immigration where obviously there is this collaboration,’” Duran said in the video accompanying the story, which was published in Spanish.
Now represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Duran and his lawyers have filed a court petition noting that Memphis Noticias and its founder “reported on police shootings, individual incidents of police misconduct, demonstrations calling for law-enforcement accountability, MPD collaboration with ICE, and local ICE enforcement actions and the resulting hardship on immigrant families.”
The SPLC petition also claimed Duran’s ICE detainment came as “a direct result of Memphis law enforcement officers’ and ICE officers’ illegal and unconstitutional actions in targeting, arresting, detaining, and seeking to deport Mr. Duran Ortega. MPD unlawfully arrested Mr. Duran Ortega to silence and retaliate against him.”
“I was doing my work and nothing more, like any other journalist does,” Duran told the Beast of his frightening arrest in April — his first time having such an encounter with police. He now believes he was “without a doubt” targeted for his coverage of Memphis PD.
In a statement to The Beast, an ICE spokesperson categorically denied the claim and said the journalist was arrested for being “in violation of federal immigration law.”
Duran, who fled El Salvador in 2006 after getting threats for reporting on police corruption, missed an immigration hearing on his removal order in 2007. He said he never got notification of the hearing, and the Beast noted that “a motion to reopen his immigration case is pending review from the Board of Immigration Appeals.”