Spanish-language reporter Manuel Duran is back in Memphis after more than a year of detention by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He spoke to reporters Tuesday for the first time.
The native of El Salvador was arrested in April of 2018 by Memphis police, while covering an immigration protest. Charges were later dropped, but ICE then took him into custody, saying a missed court hearing over a decade ago led to a deportation order for the 43-year-old.
Duran is now out on bond as his attorneys help him apply for asylum, a credible claim, they say, given the dangers reporters face in his birth country.
Speaking through a translator, Duran said the last 15 months in four different ICE facilities in Alabama and Louisiana were difficult but informative.
“I have always searched for the news as a reporter, and God put me there to listen to the stories of the people,” Duran told WKNO. “It was very difficult to hear.”
Duran described detention facilities with faulty heating and cooling systems, inadequate food rations and a lack of recreation. Sometimes inmates’ phone privileges were taken away without explanation, he said.
The Board of Immigration Appeals has agreed to let his asylum case be put before an immigration judge. A date has not been set.
While Duran is not sure what comes next as he readjusts to life in Memphis, for the moment, he feels at home.
“I’m currently recuperating psychologically from the experience,” he said. “My plan now is to make a plan for the first steps.”