New Mexico

Las Cruces city leaders asking Mexican journalist be spared from deportation

Mexican journalist seeking asylum...

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - An award-winning Mexican journalist and his son are facing deportation after living in Las Cruces, New Mexico for nearly nine years.

Emilio Gutierrez Soto, 54, and his son Oscar sought asylum in the US.  Gutierrez worked for El Diario del Noroeste, a newspaper in the state of Chihuahua. He said his problems in Mexico began after he wrote articles that alleged military forces were robbing and extorting local people in Chihuahua. 

Last week, Gutierrez and his son checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in El Paso and were nearly deported. Moments before they crossed the border back into Mexico, an emergency stay of deportation came down from the Department of Immigration Appeals. Gutierrez and his son remain in a detention center in Texas.

The journalist's friends are asking Soto and his son be allowed to return to Las Cruces for the holidays.  "We come together to address a travesty of justice," a friend told ABC-7 Tuesday.

Gutierrez already spent seven months in detention before his release in January 2009, while his application for asylum remained pending. A judge denied Gutierrez's asylum request in July 2017, and the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed his appeal this November.

Speaking by phone with the Associated Press from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Sierra Blanca, Gutierrez accused Mexican leaders of being complicit in the violence of drug cartels and the murders of journalists, though he did not make specific allegations. "The biggest criminal organization is the government," Gutierrez told the Associated Press. "I'm afraid to take one step into Mexico."

"When he came to this country, Emilio had hope in his eyes," said Las Cruces City Councilor Yvonne Flores. "Emilio's life was threatened because of his courageous journalism in exposing corruption of the Mexican military that had cost the lives of many people in the state of Chihuahua."

Flores argues Gutierrez and his son both entered the country legally. "They were seeking asylum to protect the lives," Flores said, "We feel that Emilio's current incarceration and detention is unwarranted and unjust."

"Oscar and Emilio slept on a cement floor. Emilio is not well. He asked for medical help. He was denied," said Elisa Sanches, a friend of Soto. 

Gutierrez is reportedly concerned about his family's safety is he is eventually deported to Mexico.  "Mexico - my homeland as well - is one of the most dangerous places for journalists. That's not an opinion. That is a fact," said Las Cruces City Councilor Gabriel Vasquez.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE.