The Maneater

Column: By deporting Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, the U.S. would go against the pillars of its own society

The United States should remember the significant role that journalism plays in society before sending a journalist to his death.

Tatyana Monnay is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist. In recent years, organized crime and corrupt government officials have made it a priority to threaten and even kill journalists who have exposed corruption and criminal activity. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 35 of 40 journalists murdered since 1992 were murdered with impunity.

Consider the case of Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, a Mexican journalist fighting extradition from the United States.

Gutiérrez, 54, wrote a series of articles in 2008 exposing the Mexican army’s abuses of people in Chihuahua. The critical articles caused extreme backlash for Gutiérrez and his family. A friend of Gutiérrez’s who had contacts in the military warned Gutiérrez that he was now on the army’s kill list. In fear for his life, Gutiérrez and his then-teenage son, Oscar, left Mexico for good, in hopes that their lives would be safer across the border.

Gutiérrez spent his time in the U.S. running a food truck in El Paso, Texas. Not once did Gutiérrez commit any crimes throughout the 10 years he and his son have been in the U.S. However, Gutiérrez now fears his fate if he is deported, which is extremely likely. Just this past summer, Gutiérrez’s asylum claim was denied, and he was about to be deported when the Board of Immigration Appeals granted him an 11th-hour stay.

To support the denial of asylum, Judge Robert Hough of the El Paso Immigration Court pointed to the fact that there is no documentation or testimonial corroboration of Gutiérrez’s account of what happened to him. The friend who warned Gutiérrez about his name being on the army’s kill list did not testify and neither did Gutiérrez’s former boss at the Chihuahua regional newspaper. Much of this case is based off of Gutiérrez’s account alone.

But in light of how journalists and people who are critical of illegal activity are handled in Mexico, does the judge truly expect anyone to risk their lives to come forward and speak the truth? It is not unusual in these circumstances for witnesses to not come forward where their accounts and corroborations will be recorded.

Now, in a Texas jail cell, Gutiérrez reflected on what will happen to him if he is deported back to Mexico and remains convinced that he will finally face the repercussions of his article unless people intervene.

"Our life is dependent on this process,” Gutiérrez said in a telephone news conference with The National Press Club. “I ask all of you to please not abandon us, please."

Many organizations and journalists have taken to social media to express their outrage on Gutiérrez’s possible deportation. The National Press Club has created an online petition at Change.org, which has nearly 100,000 signatures in support of Gutiérrez’s asylum in the U.S.

It is insensitive to deport Gutiérrez back to Mexico. Even if there is no official corroboration of the event, the history of how journalists are treated in Mexico is too large and apparent to ignore. To deport Gutiérrez back to Mexico would be delivering him to his grave.

As Americans, it would be unjust to further punish Gutiérrez for seeking the truth and promoting democracy, which are pillars in our own society. Gutiérrez’s article exposed the truth, something good journalism is supposed to do.

So much of our culture as Americans comes from the relative transparency we receive from news organizations, an aspect that many of us take for granted. The importance of journalism and a free press has been ingrained in us since the inception of our nation. Now, journalism sits as the fourth estate — an essential part of our society to help keep democracy alive. This privilege we have is wanted in places like Mexico. Gutiérrez was only trying to promote democracy in his own home and hold his government accountable.

Gutiérrez has abandoned his home, family and livelihood in hopes that the United States, the land of the free and home of the brave, would see his case and grant him asylum. Rather than deny him of his safety, the United States should welcome Gutiérrez with open arms and show every U.S. journalist that their government stands with them and believes in them as an institution. The U.S. must grant Gutiérrez asylum or take him to another country where he will be safer.

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