US grants Mexico journalist asylum after 15 years News
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US grants Mexico journalist asylum after 15 years

The US granted Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto asylum on Thursday after a 15-year battle. Gutiérrez Soto had to flee Mexico in 2008 after his critical reporting on the Mexican military drew negative attention from Mexican authorities. Since then, Gutiérrez Soto has fought to obtain safe asylum status in the US.  

Appellate Immigration Judge O’Connor ruled that Emilio and his son Oscar Gutiérrez Soto, who are natives to and citizens of Mexico, are eligible for asylum.  The decision settles an appeal filed by Gutiérrez Soto over a lower decision that denied their applications for asylum and withholding under the Immigration and Nationality Act. In their appeal, Gutiérrez Soto sought protection under the regulations implementing the Convention Against Torture.

Both Emilio and Oscar Gutiérrez Soto provided numerous letters and extensive declarations that explained the perceived inconsistencies involving whether or not threats at the hands of the military had been reported to the authorities and the relevant response received. After receiving this evidence, Immigration Judge O’Connor remarked, “[O]n the record before us, we are unable to affirm the [lower court’s] adverse credibility determination, and we will therefore reverse it as clearly erroneous.” The court applied the Wang v. Holder principle to describe an adverse credibility determination and stated that it may be supported by “any inconsistency or omission,” provided that “the totality of the circumstances establishes that an asylum applicant is not credible.”

The Board of Immigration Appeal also acknowledged Emilio Gutiérrez Soto’s extensive journalistic work in Mexico prior to his escape to the US. His work primarily focused on the corruption of the Mexican military. According to the National Press Club, who joined Gutiérrez Soto’s fight for asylum status six years ago, he fled “Ascensión, Chihuahua, Mexico, after a confidential source told him that his reporting on the military’s efforts to shake down locals had made him a marked man.” Since immigrating to the US, Gutiérrez Soto has been awarded numerous prestigious awards recognizing his reputation as a vocal critic of the Mexican government and military. Despite that, US immigration authorities attempted to deport him in 2017. After intervention from several free press organizations and the Rutgers University Law School International Human Rights Clinic, Gutiérrez Soto was released. 

Violence against journalists has steadily rose in Mexico in recent years. An April 2022 report by Article 19, an international human rights group, described Mexico as “the most dangerous country for journalists” outside of active war zones. This year, at least seven journalists have been discovered dead after 15 media-related murders in 2022.