U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Fred Upton, R-Mich., have written a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement asking to halt the scheduled deportation of journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan.

Gutiérrez joined 2018-19 Knight Wallace Fellowship class, studying safety and freedom of journalists. The fellowship is an eight-month program designed for mid-career journalists to help advance their skills and address challenges in the industry.

Gutiérrez was denied asylum Feb. 28 and scheduled to be deported back to Mexico. Gutiérrez and his son Oscar sought asylum in the United States in 2008 after receiving death threats for his reporting for news outlet El Diario Del Noroeste on crimes committed by the Mexican military in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Gutiérrez was initially denied asylum in 2017. He and his son were detained by ICE for eight months. Following advocacy from many journalistic organizations, the two were released in July 2018.

In the letter, Dingell and Upton urged Ronald Vitiello, deputy director and senior official performing the duties of director of ICE, to reconsider Gutiérrez’s asylum request due to the danger facing journalists in Mexico.

“Mexico remains the deadliest country for journalists worldwide that is not engaged in armed conflict, and two journalists have already been murdered in the country this year,” Upton and Dingell wrote. “Given this set of facts, along with the legitimate documented concerns surrounding Mr. Gutiérrez Soto’s safety, we strongly supports his request for asylum. It is our hope that due consideration is given to his case, and we thank you for your attention to this important matter.”

When denying asylum for Gutiérrez, Judge Robert Hough wrote Gutiérrez did not demonstrate experience of persecution in Mexico nor a fear of future persecution should he return.

Lynette Clemetson, director of Wallace House, disputed Hough’s claim, citing the murder of fellow journalists in the region.

“The judge’s ruling was incredibly frustrating,” Clemetson said. “Anyone with even the most minimal knowledge of the current situation in Mexico knows that this is absurd. At least eight journalists were murdered with impunity in Mexico last year because of their work. Two more journalists have been brutally murdered so far this year.”

Dingell introduced a private bill regarding Gutiérrez’s case. If passed, he and his son will receive relief from deportation.

This is a developing story. Please check back at michigandaily.com for more information.

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