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National News

Journalist Who Was Sent to Detention Center Reports on True Conditions

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Journalist Who Was Sent to Detention Center Reports on True Conditions

2019-07-19 17:31:051 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Manuel Duran (Image source: Screenshot)


We've hard from the people in charge of the migrant detention facilities who claim the conditions are good. We've also heard from attorneys and politicians who disagree with that claim.


This week we got the chance to hear from someone who wasn't just visiting, but who was detained in a facility, having already been a journalist who covered ICE detention. Perhaps this is the perspective we were seeking all along. 

Manuel Duran is Salvadoran native who had been working as a Spanish-language journalist for the Memphis Noticias for more than a decade, reporting on immigration enforcement officials and the conditions in the facility. Then he was detained himself last year.


He migrated to the United States in 2006 when he was subjected to death threats because of his television reporting, according to his attorneys. He missed an immigration court hearing the following year because he was not informed about it, and that led to a judge issuing a removal order for him. 

According to his attorneys, on April 3 of last year, Duran was reporting on a demonstration against local police helping ICE when Memphis police arrested him as they tried to clear people from the street.


He was charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of a highway, his attorneys wrote, but the charges were dropped only two days after the fact. 

He was turned over to ICE, though, instead of being released from jail. He was taken on an eight-hour bus ride to the LaSalle detention center in Jena, Louisiana, and had no access to a bathroom during the bus ride and had his wrists, ankles, and waist shackled.


Duran, 43, was released last week after being at four different facilities for 15 months. He complained of the brutal treatment immigrants experienced by the Trump administration.  

"I've seen the cruelty of the mass detention of immigrants firsthand," he told reporters in Spanish this week, "and it is unnecessary and inhumane."


There was not enough food at any of the facilities where he was held. They had to buy rations with money sent by family members already in the U.S. If the migrants didn't have relatives to do this for them, they would go hungry. 

There were cockroach and spider infestations at the facilities as well. For two months at Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama, he had to bathe in cold water from hoses. While the air conditioner was being repaired through a long period in the spring, the heat was on for no reason.


"I've seen the disastrous effect of Trump's anti-immigrant policy," reported Duran. "I've seen working men, businessmen, who have lived their whole lives in this country and who haven't committed crimes crying and longing to reunite with their families." 

He believes that he was singled out for detention by ICE because he was a Salvadoran journalist. His attorneys at the Southern Poverty Law Center stated in a court document that law enforcement had arrested and detained him in an effort to prevent his reporting of immigration enforcement from going public.


"In the U.S. we are made to believe that freedom of the press is valued, but I can tell you all that under the Trump administration, this isn't true," said Duran. 

While the Board of Immigration Appeals considers whether to grant him asylum because of the dangerous conditions journalists face in El Salvador, his attorneys said he was released from detention on bond July 11.


One of his attorneys, Gracie Willis, said he decided to speak about his experience because he considers journalism to be a form of advocacy. 

"I think, for him, it was important for him to speak to the press, who are his brothers and sisters in his vocation — to inform them about the things that he saw," said Willis.

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