Board of Immigration Appeals accepts Press Club brief in support of Mexican journalist's asylum case

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April 3, 2018 By Kathy Kiely

The Board of Immigration Appeals has agreed to allow the National Press Club and 16 other professional journalism organizations to intervene on behalf of a Mexican journalist who is seeking asylum in the United States.

In a March 27 letter, the Board said it is accepting a 37-page “friend-of-the-court“ brief filed by the press groups in the asylum appeal case of Emilio Gutiérrez-Soto. Months after winning the National Press Club Press Freedom award, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials took Gutiérrez and his son into custody. ICE wants to deport them to Mexico, a country the two fled in 2008 after the elder Gutiérrez’s reporting on official corruption made him the target of death threats in his home country.

Chuck Tobin, a member of the National Press Club and the First Amendment bar, hailed the BIA’s decision to recognize press organizations’ interest in the Gutiérrez case.

“International freedom from government efforts to suppress the news has never been more important,” said Tobin, a partner at Ballard Spahr. “We are gratified the BIA will consider the voices of journalists worldwide, united in the hope of keeping Emilio and Oscar safe.

U.S. immigration officials initially found Gutiérrez had “credible fear” of returning to his country, but last summer an El Paso immigration judge denied his asylum case. While that decision was on appeal — and just two months after Gutiérrez spoke at the National Press Club’s Fourth Estate dinner — ICE took the reporter and his son into custody.

The Press Club and allied press groups earlier this month filed a writ of habeas corpus to win release of the Gutiérrezes while the BIA adjudicates the asylum appeal.

Tobin is one of a number of lawyers who have volunteered their services to the National Press Club to work on the Gutiérrezes’ case. Other members of the team are: Eduardo Beckett, an immigration attorney in El Paso, Texas; Penny Venetis, a Rutgers University law professor who heads the school’s international human rights clinic; Mark Flores, an associate in the Dallas office of Littler Mendelson, and Steven Zansberg, a partner in the Dallas office of Ballard Spahr.

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