Mexican journalist Emilio Gutierrez Soto has won his asylum appeal to remain in the United States, 15 years after seeking refuge amid fear of persecution in Mexico and deportation efforts by U.S. officials, a media organization said on Thursday.
The Board of Immigration Appeals this week ruled Gutierrez, who came to the United States legally 15 years ago and now resides in Michigan, was eligible for asylum, the National Press Club (NPC) said in a statement.
"I hope that my case will shine a light on the need to protect those journalists in Mexico and around the world who are working and risking their lives to tell the truth," Gutierrez said in the statement from the U.S.-based group, which represents journalists and advocates for press freedom.
Gutierrez is one of several journalists whose cases have drawn attention in recent years, including Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is being detained in Russia, and freelance reporter Austin Tice, who went missing in Syria over a decade ago, among others.
The NPC has been pressing Gutierrez's case since 2017, when U.S. officials moved to deport him just weeks after he accepted the club's press freedom award on behalf of Mexican journalists who "are routinely targeted by drug cartels and corrupt government officials," it said.
In a notice dated Sept. 5, the three-member appeals panel said an immigration judge had twice ruled in error to deport Gutierrez, writing: "We conclude that the respondent's subjective fear of persecution upon return to Mexico is objectively reasonable and well-founded."
Representatives for the Department of Homeland's Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a media rights organization, in a report last year said journalists in Mexico face an "exceptional" crisis and some have been killed, noting that "news coverage in some regions is on the brink of disappearing" amid the violence.