WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Press Club, its Journalism Institute and other advocates for press freedom and immigration justice urge U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to suspend efforts to deport Emilio Gutierrez, a winner of the club's Press Freedom Award.
Late on Friday, an immigration judge in El Paso, Texas, refused to stay the deportation of Gutierrez from the United States — where and his son fled after his investigative reporting led to threats against himself and his family. Gutierrez requested asylum in the United States; it took eight years for him to get a hearing, which took place last year.
"Gutierrez fled his country because his reporting jeopardized him and his family and then faced years of bureaucratic indifference before now being threatened with removal," said NPC President Jeff Ballou. "He deserves better from a country that has enshrined protections for the press in the First Amendment of its Constitution."
Gutierrez has been in the midst of an appeal process over his asylum case. On Thursday Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials summoned him for a meeting. They told his lawyer they wanted to deport him that day. This meeting took place exactly six weeks after he appeared at the National Press Club to accept a Freedom of the Press award, one of the club's highest honors, on behalf of his country's beleaguered press corps.
At the NPC's request, Gutierrez represented all of his Mexican colleagues, as an exemplar of their tenacity and courage as reporters are killed, kidnapped and forced into hiding in retaliation for their reporting on drug cartels and government corruption.
He and his Mexican associates "find ourselves immersed in a great darkness," Gutierrez said through a translator.
"Our hope is that U.S. officials will provide a beacon in that darkness, in keeping with the country's long tradition of advancing press freedom, by granting Gutierrez the asylum he has requested in the United States," said Barbara Cochran, president of the board for the non-profit National Press Club Journalism Institute. "Sending him back to a country that is the most dangerous in the western hemisphere for journalists could amount to a death sentence."
The National Press Club, the National Press Club Journalism Institute and the undersigned organizations appeal to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to reconsider this deportation order. We also ask the Trump administration and all members of Congress to let the Department know that this case not only puts an individual reporter in danger, but also could have a chilling effect on truth-telling everywhere.
Jeff Ballou, president
The National Press Club
Barbara Cochran, board president
NPC Journalism Institute
Sandy Johnson, president and COO
National Press Foundation
Margaux Ewen, acting North America director
Reporters Without Borders
Dan Shelley, executive director
Radio Television Digital News Association
Bruce Brown, executive director
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Suzanne Nossel, executive director
Joshua Hatch, president
Online News Association
John Donnelly, president
Military Reporters and Editors
Sarah Glover, president
National Association of Black Journalists
Yvonne Leow, national president
Asian American Journalists Association
Melissa Lytle, president
National Press Photographers Association
Mark Hamrick, president
Society of American Business Editors and Writers
Alberto B. Mendoza, executive director
National Association of Hispanic Journalists
Beau Willimon, president
Writers Guild of America East
SOURCE National Press Club