NEW YORK—In response to reports that Memphis journalist Manuel Duran Ortega has been released on bond, PEN America released the following statement today and renewed its call that immigration officials cancel all deportation proceedings against him.

On July 11, 2019, Memphis-area journalist and founder of the Spanish-language news outlet Memphis Noticias, Manuel Duran Ortega was released on bond from Gadsen, Alabama. Duran Ortega, a Salvadoran citizen who has lived and worked in Memphis for over a decade, has spent the past 15 months in ICE custody. Earlier this month, on July 2, the Board of Immigration Appeals ordered immigration officials to re-open his case, enabling Duran to renew his application for asylum.

Duran Ortega was first arrested by Memphis police on April 3, 2018, while he was reporting an immigration-related protest. The charges against Duran Ortega were dropped, but he was subsequently taken into ICE custody. PEN America, along with other civil rights groups, has long been concerned that Duran Ortega’s arrest and subsequent deportation proceedings are inextricably related to his profession as a journalist, and his track record of critical investigative stories into the Memphis police department and ICE.

“Duran Ortega should never have been detained in the first place, so we are overjoyed to hear that he has finally been released on bond. We continue to believe that Duran Ortega would never have been in this position if it weren’t for the fact that he was unjustly arrested while doing his job as a journalist,” said James Tager, Deputy Director of Free Expression Policy and Research at PEN America. “Additionally, we remain very concerned that Duran Ortega will be at risk of retaliation for his profession if he is deported to El Salvador. For these reasons, we have called for Duran Ortega’s release, and we continue our call that deportation proceedings against him be cancelled completely.”


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Contact: PEN America Media Consulant Suzanne Trimel, [email protected]