Humboldt County residents drive six hours south to plead for release of friend, neighbor from unfair immigration detention

13 June 2018 (Arcata, California) — At six am on Monday, June 18th a convoy from Humboldt and Del Norte Counties will embark on a six hour drive south to San Francisco Immigration Court to demand the return of their undocumented friend and neighbor Claudia Portillo, Arcata mother of four.

During a routine check-in appointment in November 2017, Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents unexpectedly detained Ms. Portillo and imprisoned her 555 miles away from her four daughters in the privately owned Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield, CA.

Just 33 years old, Ms. Portillo was born in El Salvador but has lived in the United States from age seven. Her four U.S. daughters, four rescued dogs, mother, two sisters, nieces, and brother await her return to Arcata, CA, where she has lived for the past four years.

“My sister has been stuck in detention for seven months. She has missed her daughters’ birthdays and graduations waiting for a bond hearing.” Explained Ms. Portillo’s sister Jenny Ventura. “That hearing was just scheduled for 1 pm on Monday, June 18th in San Francisco. We have to make it count.”

As soon as the news filtered out on Tuesday, June 12, community volunteer Billy Cook launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for Ms. Portillo’s bond.

Care for Ms. Portillo’s four daughters has fallen to family members. After seeing her mother for the first time in months via video call from detention, her eleven year old daughter Eliada Bernal Portillo sighed, “I just want my mom back, she made everyone laugh and we haven’t been happy without her.”

“We hope seeing Claudia’s neighbors and family drive 279 miles to San Francisco on a work day to plead for her return will help Judge O’Brien agree this is an easy ‘yes’,” explained Pastor Bethany Nass Cseh of Arcata United Methodist Church and Catalyst Church in Arcata.

Two convoys from Humboldt County will depart promptly at 6:30 am Monday, June 18th from in front of both the Arcata and Eureka locations of Los Bagels, a popular local bakery and cafe and donor of food for the journey. They will gather with clergy and allies at the San Francisco Immigration Court house at 12 noon that day, before filing into Ms. Portillo’s 1 pm hearing.

Judge Patrick S. O’Brien, who will hear Ms. Portillo’s bond plea, is one of only 334 immigration judges nationwide struggling to overcome an average backlog of 1,849 cases per judge. A 2017 articleuncovered that only 15 percent of people in detention are represented by an attorney in San Francisco's immigration courts.

“Claudia is a strong, vital part of our community and is enduring something unthinkable for most of us… waiting in detention for more than 7 months! This is wrong! Claudia is not a criminal. She is a lovely human being who deserves better than this.” urged Mckinleyville, CA resident and True North Organizing Network Leader Lisa Enge.

Among the community groups mobilizing for Claudia Portillo’s return are True North Organizing Network, Arcata United Methodist Church, Catalyst Church, Humboldt Move to Amend, Centro Del Pueblo, among others.

Interviewees Available

Contact Brenda Urueta at (707) 840-5523, to be connected to:

  • Jenny Ventura: Claudia’s youngest sister.

  • Eliada Bernal Portillo: Claudia’s eleven year old daughter.

  • Brenda Urueta. True North Organizing Network’s Humboldt County Organizer and campaign leader.

  • Pastor Bethany Cseh, True North Organizing Network community leader and #FreeClaudia campaign volunteer.

  • Other True North Organizing Network community leaders and #FreeClaudia campaign volunteers can be identified upon request.