In November 2017, a member of our True North family was detained by ICE during a routine immigration check-in. Claudia Portillo is an Arcata resident and mother of four.
Her sister, Jenny Ventura, gave testimony of Claudia’s story at the Unity Action on Immigration at the Eureka First United Methodist Church on September 11, 2017, speaking to many undocumented families’ fears of deportation. “My sister, a hard working woman with four beautiful daughters is now faced with those same feelings. In a couple of weeks she has an appointment with Immigration in San Francisco... and to be honest, we don’t know what’s going to happen there. We don’t know if she’s going to walk out of that building with us to be in the car on the drive back home. Right now the fear is that they’ll be sending her back to a country filled with crime. The very same country that my mother tried saving her from. This is all due to the fact that she lost her privilege of having a work permit because she missed a signature, one signature on a form. That’s how broken our system is when it comes to Immigration.” That fear became reality when Claudia was detained by ICE and sent to a detention facility.
Claudia was detained in the Contra Costa West County Detention Center, which, according to the San Francisco Chronicle article Lost Coast Outpost referenced in its recent story is known for its harsh conditions. Inmates in this detention center “are locked up for 23 hours before they can leave their cells, which hold one or two inmates.” Later, she was moved to the privately-owned Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield.
In response to Claudia's detention, our leaders immediately organized a fundraiser to cover her expenses and invited community members to attend a vigil for Claudia on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. on the Arcata Plaza to show her that she is not alone.
Seven months later on June 10th from 3:00 - 4:00 PM, leaders organized an Encounter event at the Arcata United Methodist Church, where the community was invited to meet Claudia's family, learn about her and hear her story, and even participate in a video call with Claudia from her detention center in Bakersfield. Attendees sang her happy birthday and wrote letters for her to read, and Claudia asked them to come to her bond hearing in San Francisco once it was finally scheduled. Just two days later, on June 12th, Claudia's bond hearing was scheduled for the next Monday.
With less than a week to prepare, our network organized to be present at her hearing in San Francisco. Our community stepped up and raised almost $20,000 toward her bond and her travel back to her home. A local small business, Los Bagels, agreed to donate food for our journey, and volunteers came forward to drive vans loaded with more than two dozen North Coast residents determined to bring Claudia home.
On Monday at 1:42 PM, the judge granted Claudia’s release from detention on a $12,000 bond. As Claudia’s family left the courthouse and shared the good news with Bay Area press, Claudia’s sister, Jenny Ventura, told reporters: “I’m so happy, but I’m going to keep fighting. This is just one case out of so many.”
True North Organizing Network leaders, staff, faith/spiritual leaders and clergy believe that when we stand up for the dignity and rights of a person or particular group of people, we stand up for the dignity and rights of all people. We believe that families belong together. We believe in sanctuary for immigrants and refugees. As a network, we have committed to providing continued support to Claudia, her family and her community.
If you are interested in supporting Claudia's case and her family, please join our Free Claudia Facebook Group!