Editor’s Note: The following post was initially published on May 15 by Reporters Without Borders:
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns yesterday’s decision by the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to refuse parole for Martin Mendez Pineda, a journalist who has been detained for three months at the U.S. border after legally seeking asylum from his home state of Guerrero, Mexico.
Mendez fled Guerrero after receiving death threats following an article he published exposing police misconduct. He hoped to find safety and refuge in the United States. Mendez has been in detention since February 5th, 2017.
Yesterday RSF received an update from Mendez’s attorney, Carlos Spector, that ICE has for a second time denied his request to be released under parole on the grounds that Mendez “does not have substantial ties to the community.” On the contrary, Mendez has received an exceptional outpouring of support from the El Paso community, including from a local priest who has put his residence at Martin’s disposal should he be freed, as well as multiple community, journalism and press freedom organizations who have expressed grave concern over Martin’s detention, and have rallied behind his release.
A harrowing letter from Mendez details the horrors of the detention center he is being held in. The following is an excerpt:
“I have seen discrimination, abuse and humiliation from the very first day I set foot in this place. They transferred me to a detention center called West Texas Detention Facility located in the city of Sierra Blanca, Texas. In this place, I experienced the worst days of my life. It is known by the detainees as “el gallinero” (the henhouse) since the barracks resemble a stable for livestock or chickens, designed for approximately 60 people but currently housing more than 100 individuals, who are exposed to all kinds of diseases and who don’t have access to adequate medical attention. “The henhouse” of Sierra Blanca is small, with metal bunks, worn-out rubber mattresses, wooden floors, bathrooms with the walls covered in green and yellow mold, weeds everywhere and snakes and rats that come in the night. The guards look at the detainees with disgust on their faces and everything you say to them is ignored. There is very little food and all they tell you is that it is enough to survive. It is martyrdom to land in this place. Honestly, it is hell.”
RSF calls on ICE to immediately free Mendez, who has been held without charge for almost 90 days.
Mexico ranks 147th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The United States ranks 43rd. Mexico is now the deadliest country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere.
The contact information for the officer who refused Mendez’s request for parole is below:
Deputy Field Office Director Alfredo Fierro
To contact Carlos Spector, Martin Mendez’s attorney, call 915-544-0441.