Journalist Martin Mendez Pineda has decided he'd rather live in Acapulco, Mexico, where he's been attacked by state police and received numerous death threats, than continue waiting in a prison-like detention center while he seeks asylum in the United States.
Mendez Pineda has been held in various Texas detention centers since early February, when he originally crossed the Mexico-U.S. border
requesting asylum. But after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials denied his second request to be released on parole, Mendez Pineda decided he'd had enough. On May 16, the 26-year-old reporter officially withdrew his request for asylum.
"I felt I had to return after they denied my request for release under parole for the second time," Mendez Pineda told Reporters Without Borders. “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.”
Before crossing into Texas, Mendez Pineda had been an investigative journalist in Acapulco, a city in the violence-riddled Mexican state of Guerrero, where he covered the city government's violent abuse of power. This had made him an enemy of local law enforcement, and soon he and his family were being targeted and threatened by state police. As the list of fellow Mexican journalists killed for their reporting grew, Mendez Pineda decided to seek sanctuary in the United States.
Mendez Pineda was shackled for more than a hundred days in the overcrowded detention center, and quickly became the target of hateful taunts from the guards, according to the Guardian.
"I live daily the sad reality of maltreatment and discrimination...but know that this suffering may help the better treatment of the undocumented [migrants] and also of all the journalists of Mexico and other countries in the future,” he wrote in an April 13 statement, where he called the center "hell."
According to immigration lawyers, it's unusual for a asylum-seeker to be held for so long, especially since he has a clean criminal record, has letters of recommendation from multiple journalism organizations, and has even been green-lighted by the feds for "a credible fear of returning to his country."
Mendez Pineda returned to Mexico the day after a veteran journalist was gunned down in broad daylight in another crime-laden Mexican city. "“Of course I was scared [to return]," he told the Guardian.
"But believe me, it was unbearable.”