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Nicaraguan Journalist Joselin Montes Avoids Deportation from the USA

She claimed “reasonable fear” of being deported. “Prosecutors and judges in the US have all the necessary information about Nicaragua”

Elmer Rivas

26 de febrero 2024


Journalist Joselin Montes, originally from Chinandega, was released on Friday, February 23 in the United States after an immigration judge rejected the authorities’ request to deport her and send her back to Nicaragua. It was demonstrated that there was “reasonable fear” that upon her return to the country, she would be subjected to unjust imprisonment, isolation, and torture.

In an interview with Esta Semana, the journalist recounts why the dictatorship targeted her; the journey that took her to Panama, Colombia, and finally to the United States, where she faced the real risk of deportation because she had a previous immigration process.

In the end, her legal representative was able to demonstrate the inhumanity of handing her over to the regime, so she was allowed to remain in the US, where she intends to begin studying English and graduate as a paralegal, which would allow her to assist the processes of many other people who remain in immigration detention, with little to no legal assistance.

Joselin, tell us what were the reasons you left Nicaragua and arrived in the United States to seek asylum.

JOSELIN MONTES: I left due to false accusations against me by the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. Authorities of the infamous and criminal dictatorship in the department of Chinandega, where I am from, constantly harassed me and made false accusations against me. I was accused of trying to burn down the Chinandega City Hall, trying to assassinate the departmental FSLN political secretary of Chinandega, and the mayor of Chinandega, and that’s why I had to leave my homeland.

When did you leave Nicaragua?

I left on December 11, 2018. First, I went into exile in Panama and then in Colombia. I asked the authorities of those two countries to give me protection, asylum, something, but I never received a response. In Colombia, I applied for a work visa, and I also didn’t get a response. That’s why I decided to make the journey from Colombia to the United States in search of protection, to safeguard my life, and in search of freedom.

You were a journalist in Chinandega and were a correspondent for Canal 10 TV.

I was a correspondent for Canal 10 in the department of Chinandega, for the Acción Diez News, in their twelve noon and evening editions.

What are you being accused of? Did you cover the protests as a journalist?

Yes, I covered the protests for certain radios in Chinandega, for the radio programs ‘En Contacto con la Sociedad’ and ‘En Aquí se Habla.’ Those programs were broadcast in time slots paid for by us, independent journalists. The regime also accuses me because I was part of the April 2018 protests, and because I founded the ‘Álvaro Conrado’ Medical Brigade in Chinandega. When the Ortega and Murillo dictatorship closed the service in public hospitals in the department, we created medical brigades to attend to the needs of the young people in the protests.

When they accused you, did they do it in a court or on social media? Where you accused or threatened?

They accused me through a video of a person who was detained by the infamous death squads, and they used the typical tactic of the dictatorship: a false accusation. In 2018, I was a university student, I was studying my second degree at the National Autonomous University of Leon, which canceled my enrollment, and I was notified that I was not allowed to enter the university.

When you arrived in the United States – you entered in January 2023 – you were free for a few months. What happened during that time and how did you end up being detained?

I entered this country irregularly because I no longer had the option to enter with the visa that was canceled in 2016 when I was deported to Nicaragua. That’s why I decided to enter irregularly, and I surrendered at the Rio Grande border. I spent four days in detention in the infamous iceboxes, and then I was released under an I-220 B, which is a deportation order that required me to report regularly on scheduled dates, for interviews with ICE –the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office— (a federal agency of the Department of Homeland Security, responsible for enforcing immigration laws) here in Miami.

Since you arrived, was there already a deportation process?

Yes, because I had a previous deportation, which was the cancellation of a visa that the US embassy extended to me in 2014. So, I left with a deportation order I-220 B.

And then what happened during that time before you were detained?

Before I was detained, I was free for three months. On April 18 of last year, I had an immigration appointment in Miramar, Miami, where authorities from –the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office—, ICE, told me that I was under immigration detention because I have a deportation order, and it was from that moment on that I kept battling for a long time until achieving victory. I am very grateful to God because the objective of safeguarding my life in this country was achieved.

And what happened during those ten months: were you in a trial hearing?

It was a difficult process, but not impossible. I used to tell my companions with whom I remained in prison: freedom has no price. I would never give up. I knew I had all the bases to appear before an Immigration Judge of this country to request that they allow me to safeguard the most precious thing, which is life. I faced many immigration courts and judges, to whom I argued ‘reasonable fear’.

From that moment on, my process opened up and I had to appear before a master court judge within detention, but many times they changed them, and that prolonged the process even more.

There was a motion introduced by the ICE Prosecutor accusing me of lying, something that was proven false with motions and documentation, and that everything I said was true. There was a lot of substance to my case, to everything I was experiencing, to what I had gone through in Nicaragua, why I was in front of the authorities asking to safeguard my life in this country. I also suggested to the judge on many occasions that if there was a third country, he should send me there, because my goal was not the American dream, but to safeguard my life.

And why were you in danger if you were deported to Nicaragua? What evidence, what reasons did you offer in that process?

At a baseball game here in the United States I confronted the [Ortega] paramilitary Juan Caldera and called him a murderer. Also, for that reason, I was afraid to return to Nicaragua because the regime always operates, to this day, with the same tactics: imprisonment, death, torture, and mine is always to demand justice, freedom, and democracy. I have not remained silent on my social networks and in the media that have given me the opportunity, and I will not do so.

What was the judge’s final deliberation? Were you able to participate in any hearing where the judge finally granted you freedom in the United States?

No. On February 9th, I was supposed to have my final hearing before the immigration judge of Broward County, but it did not happen because I was transferred. I can’t tell you why because I don’t know. I have always said that what happened was at God’s will, which was fulfilled. I was transferred from Miami to the state of Georgia. I received the news through a phone call from my lawyer, my legal representative, whom I am very grateful for all the work he did. Also, with the Nicaraguan Human Rights Defenders and attorney Pablo Cuevas, who has been the person who has been looking after my rights as a Nicaraguan in this country.

I know that there are many Nicaraguans who go through these types of processes in the United States. What do you think were the keys to avoiding your deportation?

Speaking the truth and having all the necessary evidence to do so, to present myself before the judge and tell them based on who I was. What I was doing; what I would face if a deportation order were issued to my country of origin. There are many Nicaraguans at risk of deportation, but the processes are very different.

There are Nicaraguans who are detained for driving under the influence, or for having committed crimes, but my process was solely migratory. I have no offenses in this country. My criminal record here is completely clean.

Do immigration prosecutors and judges have information about the persecution experienced in Nicaragua? What was your experience?

Yes, they have all the necessary information. They know what is happening in Nicaragua. Since one submits asylum to Homeland Security… they give you a package of everything happening in Nicaragua, everything the regime does, everything experienced daily in the country. They have all the information and provide it to you so that you can assist with your evidence, study your case, and better prepare yourself to go before immigration courts.

Is this provided by your lawyer or the prosecutors?

That is provided by the Immigration Court. They give you a booklet with all the current situation in the country, and it serves you to study and see how it helps you, because asylum can be requested for political opinion, race, nationality, religion, or for belonging to a particular group. My asylum was based on political opinion, invoking the Convention Against Torture, because I was not fighting for asylum, but to prevent deportation. My asylum was based on opinion; for belonging to a particular group and it was based on nationality.

Now that your deportation has been canceled, what are you going to do in the United States?

I want to study the language. I want to take a paralegal course in this country, to help people who truly need it, because there is a lot lacking here in immigration jails, from lawyers, to those who take an asylum case… many things, and if God gives me the opportunity to pave my way in what is mine, which is communication, journalism, I am available for whatever God has for me. Everything comes as a result, the word says. So I am open. I am very grateful to God, to all the people who supported me: friends, family, with everyone I am extremely grateful.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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Elmer Rivas

Elmer Rivas

Periodista y productor general de los programas Esta Semana, Esta Noche y Confidencial Radio, dirigidos por Carlos F. Chamorro. Exiliado en Costa Rica desde junio de 2021.