MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – After 465 days in ICE custody, Memphis journalist and El Salvador native Manuel Duran is back in the Bluff City.
Memphis Police arrested Duran on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. He spent 15 months in various immigration facilities.
Attorney Gracie Willis with the Southern Poverty Law Center spoke with Local 24 News reporter, Annette Peagler over the phone Thursday. She says Duran kept saying he felt like he was in a dream.
Duran is a free man 465 days after Memphis Police arrested him in April of 2018 while covering a rally protesting immigration policies. ICE agents were waiting for him when he got out of jail.
“ICE could have released him at any point during the last 15 months on an order of supervision and it’s great to see this family reunited, but it’s also bittersweet knowing that they didn’t have need to go through this trauma of being separated for so long,” Willis explained.
ICE agents put Duran into custody on a pending deportation order after failing to appear for a court hearing in 2007. Willis says Duran was apprehended after crossing the border with ICE determining that he had entered without necessary documentation.
“Over the last 15 months we’ve been trying to reopen his case so he can have the opportunity to seek asylum which is protection for individuals fleeing their countries of origin for specific reasons,” Willis said.
Duran’s legal team finally got the case reopened last week.
Gabriela Marquez-Benitez is one of Duran’s supporters who for months rallied across the U.S. raising awareness about his case.
“As of today, we have almost 53,000 people inside of immigration detentions daily. A record number that we’ve never seen before,” Marquez-Benitez said. “The fact that Manuel is out in his community is an example of what community organizing and building can create.”
Duran’s attorney says since his case has been reopened, he will have a court date set likely in Atlanta, because that is the city that issued his removal order in 2007. An exact date has not been set.