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Atlanta reporter faces deportation after political asylum rejection

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A journalist at Georgia’s largest Spanish-language newspaper said Thursday that if his second bid at asylum fails he and his family would be in grave danger in their native El Salvador.

Mario Guevara and his family fled El Salvador in 2004 after militant groups began harassing the reporter, then a photojournalist at conservative La Prensa Grafica, for critical coverage of opposition forces.

Guevara said in various interviews this week that an immigration judge’s rejection of his political asylum application last month had consigned his family to certain peril for the allegedly close ties he held with an unpopular, conservative government.

“Many of these people began to associate me with the right-wing government,” Guevara told local press. “They thought I was an undercover cop.”

Inspired by a Spanish-language profile in Mundo Hispanico, Guevara’s employer since 2007 and a parter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a petition asking President Barack Obama to grant the journalist immediate political asylum had already notched 700 signers by 6PM on Friday.

The reporter emigrated legally to America, traveling on a tourist visa, but did not seek asylum for 17 months after arriving because he felt the situation at home would improve in time. When it was otherwise apparent, Guevara said, he began the long process of seeking asylum.

Guevara’s asylum bid is just one of many backlogged in the state’s immigration circuit. A new audit of petitions filed over the last year revealed that applications had exploded by 280 percent year-over-year in the months since Georgia tightened its immigration laws.

Yet the scope of flattering coverage, which grew to include the Associated Press on Thursday, of his bid to avert an August deportation is a definite edge over his fellow asylum seekers.

- James Richardson

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