Family of Arcata mother arrested by ICE holds vigil on plaza


ARCATA, Calif. - For Claudia Portillo, traveling down to San Francisco to check-in with immigration authorities was somewhat of a routine -- until it was not.

Portillo is described as a hard worker and active in the Arcata community. She's a mother of four, and said she had no problem raising them on her own.

But during her last visit to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Nov. 14, something changed. Portillo's fiance said she saw a new agent, and before she was able to present her paperwork, the agent reached for his handcuffs and detained her.

"She was going in confidently. She was just going to drop off some papers. She was just going to show that she's a member of the community and how she participates a lot," said Portillo's sister, Jenny Ventura.

Portillo was only seven when her mother brought her into the United States from El Salvador. She had been living in the country under Temporary Protective Status for Central Americans. The family said a missing signature on her paperwork got her application denied. Her sister also said a previous encounter with immigration agents, assigned her to regular check-ins with them.

"She was set up to go annually, before that she was set to go every six months," said Ventura.

But Portillo not returning home was not routine. After being handcuffed, she was placed inside the Contra Costa West County Detention Facility in Richmond, California.

"She's not doing well. She says where they have her, they have her enclosed as if she was a criminal, and she is not," Ventura said. "They have her in a room with no window, they let her out, maybe if the inmates are good, they let her out for an hour or so."

One of the hardest hits for the family, is not knowing what is at the end of the tunnel.

"The lawyer says they are waiting on a court date. What I'm hoping for is that there is a court, and that they are able to get her out on bail," Ventura said.

Through prayer and song, family and friends came together at the Arcata Plaza to help bring a member of their community back home. They ask for the community to write letters to their elected officials and express their concerns for Portillo. They also point to a Go Fund Me page to help them pay for legal fees and possible bail fees.

Until then, the family remains hopeful that someone is listening to their prayers.

Ventura said, "My sister is a strong woman. She's independent. She raised her children. She's always loved helping people. It's just not fair."

ICE was not immediately available for comment.

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