San Francisco

Family Fights to Keep Undocumented Humboldt County Mother in United States

The undocumented Salvadoran-born mom missed a court date two years ago and was cited for driving on a suspended license in 2012

Headlines lately have been flooded with heartbreaking tales of families separated at the border. For one Humboldt County family, they are fighting to keep a loved one in the country.

Through the eyes of those closest to Claudia Portillo -- her mother, daughters, sisters and cousins -- the last seven months have been nothing short of hell.

"I've been feeling like I've been living in a dream, and it's been feeling like it's not true," said Jennifer Portillo, Claudia's sister.

Claudia, who was detained by ICE in November, is a mother of four girls and an active member of her church and community. But the undocumented, Salvadoran-born mom missed a court date two years ago and was cited for driving on a suspended license in 2012.

Since then, she has had to make routine immigration check-ups.

"So she had been checking in for six years, and then for whatever reason, this last time they decided to keep her," said Joseph LaCome, an attorney representing Claudia.

Dozens drove from six hours away in Claudia's home of Arcata to San Francisco on Monday to see if she might receive bond. When the judge declared it at $12,000, more than twice what the group raised, things looked cloudy -- and then, magic.

"One of our neighbors was sitting next to me and she looks up and says, 'I inherited some money. I'm going to front it. I have a check in my pocket. I'm just going to pay it,'" said Leila Roberts, a community supporter with the True North group.

Family members then rejoiced at the prospect of reunion, but they know the fight is far from over.

"I'm still going to keep fighting. This is just one case out of so many in the United States," said Jennifer Ventura, Claudia's sister. "So this is a victory for us, but there's more work to be done."

Claudia faced indefinite detention. She now will likely be coming home to her family on Tuesday, provided they were able to get the cashier's check in time. The Department of Homeland Security can appeal the bond within 30 days, but lawyers do not think it is likely.

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