MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Memphis-based journalist who was released from ICE custody last week is speaking Wednesday about his time in detention.
“I always wanted to cover news. I never imagined I’d become news," said Manuel Duran at a news conference Wednesday with the help of a translator. “As soon as I felt the Memphis air, I realized I was home and feel very comfortable here."
Duran, a journalist from El Salvador based in Memphis, spent 15 months in detention before being released Thursday. His case was recently reopened by an immigration appeals panel that will reconsider his claim that he is eligible for asylum.
“Persistence, determination, hope, courage are the words that describe the last 470 days," said Latino Memphis Executive Director Mauricio Calvo.
Representatives with Latino Memphis and the Southern Poverty Law Center spoke about Duran’s release and what it means moving forward.
“It elevated the situation of his unlawful detention, his unlawful arrest and the ICE hold for 48 hours that allowed ICE to come and get him and today we live in a very different environment here in Shelby County," said Calvo.
Duran was released after his attorneys with the Southern Poverty Law Center and Adelante Alabama Worker Center sought bond. He was being held at the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama. While in federal detention, Duran said he was living in poor conditions.
“These places are infected with pests, cockroaches and spiders," said Duran. “The portions of food were not enough to satisfy hunger throughout the day.”
Duran also saw talked about what he witnessed firsthand.
“I’ve witnessed firsthand the pain and suffering that separating families can cause,” said Duran.
But through it all, Duran says he wouldn’t change a thing.
Duran’s attorney, Gracie Willis, says he’ll have a hearing in immigration court. They expect that to be scheduled in Atlanta but hope to move it to Memphis so he can be home. Willis also says of that 2007 court date, Duran never received his notice to appear.