A Memphis journalist who was arrested while covering an immigration protest and detained by US immigration officials for more than 15 months has been released, his attorneys said.
Manuel Duran, 43, a Salvadoran citizen, left the Etowah County, Alabama, detention center Thursday on a $2,000 bail, Gracie Willis, a Southern Poverty Law Center attorney who is representing Duran, told CNN.
“I feel like I’m reborn,” Duran said in a statement released by the Southern Poverty Law Center. “I am happy for this day. It has been a very difficult time but thanks to God, this is the day I waited for. I am grateful for my team, family, and my community for all the help.”
Duran had faced deportation since he was arrested on April 3, 2018, during a rally protesting local law enforcement’s practice of detaining suspected undocumented immigrants and turning them over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He was reporting on the protest for Memphis Noticias, a Spanish-language online publication that he founded, and was wearing his press badge when he was detained.
The journalist was initially detained on charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing traffic, though those charges were dismissed days later. He was not allowed to leave the jail and was detained by immigration officials, according to a court filing by the SPLC.
He’s reported in Memphis for years
Duran was a manager at a television station in El Salvador before he fled to the United States in 2006. Since he came to Memphis, he’s worked for Spanish-language radio stations, and he recently founded his own news outlet, Memphis Noticias.
Willis, who is among a team of attorneys and advocates representing Duran, said the journalist was detained by immigration officials because he had a pending deportation order.
After Duran arrived in the US, he was told he would eventually have to appear at an immigration court in Atlanta but was not given a date or time.
“He went on to live with a family member and when the court attempted to send a hearing notice it was returned to the court as not deliverable,” Willis said. “He never received notice of his hearing date. He didn’t know when to go to court or even that he had a hearing date.”
A judge issued the deportation order in 2007 after Duran didn’t attend the hearing, Willis said.
ICE did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Duran spent 15 months in several detention centers, including the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama, as his attorneys appealed the deportation order. He was released Thursday on bond after the Board of Immigration Appeals reopened his case.
Duran walked out of the detention center wearing a blue shirt and a black jacket, just as the day he was arrested.
Willis said she was thrilled to see him reunited with his family after months in detention.
“His … is just one of many cases where people who are not a danger in the community are being held in detention unnecessarily,” Willis said. “ICE has a default on detentions and even with Manuel’s release, many, many people continue in these detention centers for no reason.”
Duran’s attorneys will request that his case is moved to a Memphis immigration court. Willis said Duran is expected to file an application for asylum soon.