While One Comes Home, Thousands Continue to Suffer

Our True North Network experienced victory on Monday. Claudia Portillo, an undocumented Arcata mother of four who has been in ICE Detention in Bakersfield for the past seven months, was granted release on bond.

 Claudia's family and friends inside the courtroom at her bond hearing. Claudia was present via video chat and can be seen on the screens.

Claudia's family and friends inside the courtroom at her bond hearing. Claudia was present via video chat and can be seen on the screens.

This came at the end of just over a week of the North Coast community encountering, understanding and being moved by Claudia’s story and her struggle. Residents met her family and close friends at our Encounter event in Arcata on June 10th, and they had the chance to meet Claudia herself via video from the Mesa Verde Detention Center. Just two days later, Claudia’s case moved quickly and she was scheduled for a bond hearing on Monday, June 18th.

With less than a week to prepare, our network organized to be 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 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.”

Since execution of the Administration’s new Zero Tolerance policy was ordered in April, more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents at the US-Mexican border and held in jail-like conditions. Additionally, over the past year, the amount of migrant children that the United States has taken into government custody has reached nearly 11,000. The inconvenient truth is that our nation has a long and sordid history of breaking up families: during slavery children were taken and divided from their parents; Native American children were taken by the government and could be sent thousands of miles from their homes. Unfortunately, we are turning another chapter in a long line of immoral and unjust policies that separate and destroy marginalized families.

The President has rescinded his action with a new Executive Order, but that only delays this inhumane situation: A family will remain together in custody until outcome of their court case, and then the children can be divided from their parents. It also asserts an intention to detain families indefinitely, in opposition to current judicial precedent.

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The horror stories coming from the current mass detention taking place at our border are numerous: parents have had to listen to their children sobbing and screaming in the next room; one Honduran man committed suicide after his three-year-old was taken from him; children have been kept in what Oregon senator Jeff Merkley described as a “dog kennel”; a woman was told by an agent: “You will never see your children again. Families don’t exist here. You won’t have a family any more.”

Our network has witnessed the pain that a family experiences when a daughter, sister, mother, cousin, aunt and friend is jailed and separated from those who love her. Through our relationships with Claudia and her family, we empathize deeply with the pain of isolation and the cruelty of immigration detention. We opened our hearts and put our boots on the ground for Claudia, and this time we were able to help bring a loved one home. We need to do the same for other families who are being ripped apart by the broken immigration system and callous government officials.

While Claudia will likely be home with her family by the end of this week, thousands of children and parents will remain separated, alone and afraid. The whereabouts of their loved ones will remain unknown. As an organization dedicated to advancing immigrant rights, we will continue our fight for them. Now is the time for all people of goodwill and a thirst for justice in our North Coast Community to stand up and join us in this fight!

Community Vigil for Detained Arcata Resident

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Grassroots leaders of the True North Organizing Network invite community members to attend a vigil for Claudia Portillo, an Arcata resident and mother of four who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) two weeks ago in San Francisco. Join Claudia’s family and community on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. on the Arcata Plaza to show her that she is not alone.

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Claudia has spent the last two weeks 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. Her sister, Jenny Ventura, recently 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 two weeks ago when Claudia was detained by ICE and sent to the Contra Costa West County Detention Facility. Inmates in this detention center “are locked up for 23 hours before they can leave their cells, which hold one or two inmates.” 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. Join us on the Arcata Plaza this Tuesday evening from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. to show support with words, song, and prayer.

If you can provide financial support to the family, GoFundMe campaign “Claudia’s Deportation Defense” will help raise funds for travel to the Bay Area and for Claudia’s legal fees. The goal is to raise $7,000 initially, and to potentially raise more if an immigration judge grants Claudia a bond hearing.

Facebook Event

#No1StandsAlone

Press Contact:
Brenda Urueta, Humboldt Coastal Organizer
(707) 318-0188, brendau@truenorthorganizing.org

True North Organizing Network Calls on Humboldt County to become a “Welcoming County” and commit to Social/Racial Equity

(Eureka, CA)  Our North Coast communities are changing. Migration and rapid demographic shifts and the economic struggles that many of our neighbors face are causing tension and creating new challenges, for newcomers and long-time residents alike.

Immigrants and people of color seek their place in the community with safety from harassment and discrimination, Tribal and Indigenous people seek a return of their right to self-determination and sovereignty and the rural White working class is seeking their own equity and experiencing an unprecedented spike in what’s been labeled as the: ”Deaths of Despair”.  As we move forward into the future, the strongest communities will be ones where all people can take part in economic, civic, and social life. These communities will be able to go beyond fear and even tolerance to a bright future for all of our people. Now is the time for bold leadership and action from our County Board of Supervisors.

True North Organizing Network calls on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to lead the way in creating this bright future by taking two concrete actions--(1) Pass a “Welcoming County Resolution” based upon the Welcoming America model; and (2) Pass and implement a Social and Racial Equity Resolution based upon the City of Seattle’s, Resolution 31577.  

Passing and implementing these two resolutions will give a clear and unambiguous message to our diverse community that our Humboldt County Board of Supervisors is committed to an inclusive future for all and a framework for our community to come together in order to create. Working together to make our county more welcoming  with social/racial equity will lower tensions and make us stronger and more resilient in the face of change and challenge.

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