Memphis reporter freed from immigration custody settles lawsuits

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Manuel Duran, right, and his translator speak with media about Duran’s return to Memphis.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Spanish-language reporter who spent 15 months in immigration detention following his arrest during a protest has reached a legal settlement in a lawsuit against two governments in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Shelby County government has paid Manuel Duran and his lawyers $10,000. The county government runs the jail where Duran was held before he was taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in April 2018.

Documents obtained  show the City of Memphis paid another $9,000. Memphis police officers were involved in Duran’s arrest.

Duran has withdrawn his lawsuit against the city, county and several officials.

The El Salvador native was arrested while covering the rally protesting immigration policies in Memphis. Protesters had blocked a street in front of a downtown courthouse on the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King. Jr’s assassination.

Protest-related charges were subsequently dropped, but Duran was picked up by immigration agents and detained after he was released from jail.

ICE has said Duran was taken into custody because he had a pending deportation order from 2007 after failing to appear for a court hearing. Duran has said he did not receive a notice to appear in court with a time and date on it.

Duran has lived in Memphis for years. He ran the Memphis Noticias online news outlet and reported on the effects of U.S. immigration policies on the Hispanic community. Duran’s lawyers have said he came to the United States without permission in 2006 after receiving death threats related to reporting on corruption in El Salvador.

Duran was released from immigration custody in July, but his deportation case continues. Lawyers with the Southern Poverty Law Center who have been working to free Duran are now concentrating on his request for asylum.

Lawyers argue that conditions have worsened for journalists in El Salvador and Duran could be in danger if he returns. In granting his release, the Board of Immigration Appeals acknowledged that conditions for reporters have changed for the worse in Duran’s home country since his initial deportation order, lawsyers have said.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has granted Duran an indefinite stay from deportation as his case is argued.

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