Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, who has been held at an immigrant detention center since last December, will join the 2018-19 Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists class at the University of Michigan.
Gutiérrez, who will be a Senior Press Freedom Fellow at Wallace House, and his adult son, Oscar, were freed July 26 from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Texas.
A former reporter for a small newspaper in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, Gutierrez is seeking asylum in the U.S. The Los Angeles Times reported that he received death threats from the Mexican military after writing about a group of soldiers who had stolen money from migrants. He fled to the U.S. with his teenage son a decade ago; they were detained for several months and eventually were released on parole while they waited for their asylum case to be heard, according to the Times. Their asylum claim finally came before a judge last November. It was denied, and Gutierrez and his son were detained.
Their late July 2018 release came a day before a federal judge’s deadline for U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials to produce documents to explain why it detained the journalist.
“Wallace House, the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor community are eager to receive Gutiérrez and his son as the family works to resume their life in the U.S. and Gutiérrez has the opportunity to reconnect with journalism,” says Knight-Wallace Fellowship director Lynette Clemetson. She met with Gutiérrez in April at the El Paso, Texas, detention facility to invite him to join the Knight-Wallace program.
Mexico is considered the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, after war-torn Syria. Wallace House joined numerous journalism organizations including The National Press Club, Reporters Without Borders, and the American Society of News Editors, to collaborate in support of Gutiérrez’s case.
“With so many challenges to press freedom, and in the midst of a crisis around immigration policy, it is easy to feel powerless,” says Clemetson. “Emilio’s release, due to the efforts of many, is a reminder that we all can do something to affect change.”
While at U-M, Gutiérrez will study issues related to global press freedom and safety.
A former reporter for a small newspaper in the violent Mexican state of Chihuahua, Gutierrez said he received death threats after writing about a group of soldiers who had stolen money from migrants.