July 11, 2018
As ICE detains a Latinx reporter in Memphis, a community tries to stay informed
by Alex Primiani
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, is a cruel and predatory organization that has recently focused its efforts on keeping immigrant children separate from their parents. We’ve all seen the headlines. But, according to Rachel Frazin at the Daily Beast, ICE is also targeting any immigrants in the US who are speaking up against their abuses. One of those people is Memphis-based journalist Manuel Duran.
Before his arrest at a protest in Memphis last April, Duran reported on police abuse for Memphis Noticias, a Spanish-language news site he oversaw. Despite apparently wearing a press badge during the protest (you can see the video of his arrest here; it’s pretty brutal), Duran was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing a highway or passageway. According to Franzin, a police report asserts “that Duran’s refusal to get out of the road ‘caused a hazard.’ It also mentioned that he did not have a U.S. identification.”
On his release from the Shelby County Jail, Duran found ICE waiting for him.
Duran’s site, Memphis Noticias, has been covering arrests within the city’s Latinx and immigrant communities. Duran had reported that, despite promises from Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland that local authorities would not collaborate with ICE within city limits, the agency had detained at least three peple there.
Duran reported on more than just these arrests. Frazin spoke to his attorney, Jeremy Jong, who explained, “A court petition filed by the SPLC [Southern Poverty Law Center] said that Duran, through Memphis Noticias, reported on police shootings, individual incidents of police misconduct, demonstrations calling for law-enforcement accountability, MPD collaboration with ICE, and local ICE enforcement actions and the resulting hardship on immigrant families.”
Duran also told the Daily Beast that his initial arrest was, “without a doubt” related to his reporting. Frazin continues, “when he was arrested, Duran recounted, he was scared because he had never had an encounter like that with the police. ‘I was doing my work and nothing more, like any other journalist does,’ he said.”
For Teen Vogue, Megan Fredette writes, “In response to Duran’s allegations, both ICE and the Memphis Police denied to the Daily Beast that he is the victim of politically based retaliation.”
The state of Memphis Noticias is up in the air, but Duran’s family and fiancée Melisa Valdez are trying their best to keep the site live and updated, including with details of Duran’s detention:
[Valdez] is also working to keep Memphis Noticias readers abreast of developments in Duran’s case, posting regular updates on the publication’s Facebook page and online at freemanuelduran.org. Valdez has also created a donation page and petition for his release that had nearly 1,800 signatures as of this weekend.
Frazin also points to NPR’s investigation last March into ICE’s arrests within the activist community. It isn’t hard to believe that ICE is currently targeting activists and spokespeople who speak up against their actions.
UPDATE: After we published this piece, we received a friendly correction from a deputy communications director for the city of Memphis, asserting that Memphis city police have at no point collaborated with ICE. The official explained that the Shelby County Jail is operated by the county government, not the municipal government of Memphis (which is the seat of Shelby County), and that it is thus the independently elected Shelby County Sheriff, and not the City of Memphis, who would be involved in the transfer of prisoners from the jail to ICE custody. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has published an explainer laying out the details of the situation. While he disclaimed any municipal responsibility for such transfers, the spokesperson did not dispute that persons arrested by Memphis city police have wound up in ICE custody.
Alex Primiani is senior publicist at Melville House.