Despite danger in Mexico, journalist abandons US asylum request

Although he fled Mexico because of the threats he was facing there, Mexican journalist Martín Méndez has gone back after 100 days in a US detention centre because US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refused to grant him asylum and denied his request for release under parole at the start of May.

Méndez had remained in detention ever since he filed an application for political asylum in a completely legal manner at the US border on 5 February, citing the threats he received after writing a story about police violence in the southern state of Guerrero.

“I felt I had to return after they denied my request for release under parole for the second time,” Méndez told Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “When I got their response, I realized I no longer had any hope of getting out. As I couldn’t stand another year in this situation, I took the decision to return, despite the danger that entails, a danger they didn’t really take into account.”

Méndez’s lawyer, Carlos Spector, told RSF that ICE had again denied his request for release under parole on the grounds that he did not have sufficient ties to the community.

We deplore the behaviour of the US Immigration authorities, who are putting this Mexican journalist’s life in danger by refusing to grant him asylum,” said Balbina Flores, RSF’s representative in Mexico. “Because of the deplorable way he was treated in detention and the constant uncertainty about what would happen next, Martín Méndez felt he had no choice but to withdraw his asylum request.”

Mexico is the western hemisphere’s most dangerous country for journalists. More than 100 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, and 20 have disappeared.

President Enrique Peña Nieto finally promised to provide journalists with more protection on 17 May, two days after Javier Valdez became the sixth journalist to be murdered in Mexico this year.

RSF is in constant contact with Méndez, who has asked the NGO not to disclose his current location. The Federal Mechanism for Protecting Human Rights Defenders and Journalists is also aware of his return.

Mexico is ranked 147th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. In a report published in February, entitled “Veracruz: journalists and the state of fear,” RSF proposed a series of recommendations to the federal and local authorities for ending the spiral of violence.
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Updated on 23.05.2017