Resolve that we must free Claudia Portillo
Dear Members of the Arcata City Council,
Last night I attended a vigil for the family of Claudia Portillo, mother of four, who was recently detained by ICE.
I did not know Claudia personally, but judging from the praise of her pastor and two of her children’s teachers, with whom I spoke, Claudia was/ is a well-respected and beloved member of our community. Together with her husband, she runs a small business in Arcata, and volunteers her time and efforts in giving back to the community.
Her pastor spoke about her selfless devotion to helping others in the fire-afflicted areas of California and the youth in our community. He said that he had just accompanied her on a recent trip to Napa and Sonoma counties to deliver emergency supplies donated by members of their church. And that the family is deeply religious.
Her sister Jenny said that Claudia and her husband had worked hard all their lives, paid their taxes and tried to live a blameless life. They have four beautiful children, some of whom were at the vigil, looking profoundly distraught. I hope you can imagine what it must be like for these children to lose a mother.
Claudia’s mother spoke last. She said that she had brought her daughters here to protect them from the violence in El Salvador. Claudia was just five years old when she came to the United States. She is, for all purposes, an American.
For the previous two years, El Salvador was rated the most violent nation in the world, and its capital, San Salvador, as the most murderous city. Is this where our government intends to deport Ms. Portillo?
A hardworking mom with four kids, who has never committed a crime other than a misdemeanor? And what crime did her children commit to be tortured like this?
I don’t know the entire story, but it appears that Claudia was picked up on a technicality. She had a work permit, but there were certain papers she was required to sign that were delivered to the wrong address. Since that time, she’s had to check in with immigration authorities in San Francisco on a yearly basis. Most of the time, she came back home after her check ins, but this year she was not so lucky.
My question to you is this: What kind of country are we turning into when we can “disappear” people like this? Or traumatize children and families by tearing them apart? This is not just a violation of Ms. Portillo’s rights (the Constitution applies to “all persons”), it is a crime against humanity to tear children away from their mothers. And it is an assault on the very fabric of our community ... because Claudia is part of this community, and she belongs here with us, together with her partner and her children.
This community stands in solidarity with the Portillo-Cuevas family. Last night, 50 people showed up for the vigil in a fine drizzle, on very short notice, to offer our love, solidarity and support for the family.
Therefore, we request that you adopt a resolution in support of Claudia Portillo’s right to be reunited with her family. And send that to our representatives in Congress. Please do everything in your power to help reunite Claudia Portillo with her family. Thank you.
The overbuilt Bay Trail
I am writing this letter to share the sentiments of George Green regarding the new bike trail through the Marsh (Union, Nov. 29, “Lamenting the intrusive development of the Marsh”).
Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong supporter of hiking and biking trails. In fact, my husband and I donated $100 to the fund for this new trail. We love to ride bikes and have ridden on trails all over Holland, Germany, Austria, France, Denmark and the U.K. In the U.S., we took a week-long bike trip on a section of the 200-mile Katy Bike Trail in Missouri; we’ve ridden on a section of the rails to trails system in Wisconsin and, more recently, rode our bikes on the extensive and beautiful trails that wind through Sunriver in Central Oregon.
In my many years of cycling, I have never seen a trail designed like this – with such intense road markings, signage and vegetation removal. My eyebrows first raised when I saw the extensive amount vegetation that was removed from the trail right-of-way along the Bay before the trail was completed.
Then, one day when I was walking through the Marsh with a friend, I was struck by the incredible width of the trail and the heavy-handed manner in which the native shrubs and trees were being cut back. Of course, invasive plants like fennel, teasel, Scotch broom, Pampas grass, etc., will move into these newly disturbed areas. It was as if someone forgot to mention that this is a Wildlife Sanctuary and the trail needed to be constructed in an environmentally sensitive manner. My heart sank when I saw what was happening – to me, it looked like Caltrans was building a road through our beloved Marsh.
Like Mr. Green, I was reluctant to criticize the new trail, knowing the public’s desire for a trail and feeling I needed to give it a chance. However, I cannot help but think there was a missed opportunity to create a winding, pleasing trail that inspires your sense of adventure and blends in beautifully with the natural environment.
In addition to my concerns about the unattractive, overkill design of the trail, I am also worried about the vehicle access points to the trail from U.S. Highway 101. A couple weeks ago, while driving south on 101, I noticed a car parked along the new section of trail next to the highway. It appeared a woman had taken a little girl to ride her bike on the trail from this spot. Just a few feet to the north, I also noticed what appeared to be a couple of hunters (they had guns) parked on a cleared area on the bay side of the trail, which means they drove their truck across the new trail and railroad tracks to get there.
I sure hope there are plans to install large boulders and dense vegetation to provide a safety and noise barrier between the highway and trail (and to reintroduce some of the wildlife habitat that was removed). This is especially important, because the speed limit will increase to 65 mph once Caltrans’ Safety Corridor project is completed and, now that State Route 299 is open to STAA-sized trucks, there will be more (and bigger) trucks using our highways.
I wanted to express my concerns in the hopes that the as-yet unbuilt section of the Humboldt Bay Trail, south of the new stretch, is designed in a more aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sensitive manner. For the immediate future, there clearly needs to be some sort of safety barrier installed between the highway and the trail, and the vehicle access points need to be barricaded.
End student homelessness
Homelessness is rampant among students in the California State University system. A preliminary study by the CSU in 2015 found that about 10 percent of CSU students are homeless. Informal surveys have been held at Humboldt State that suggest the homelessness rate at our school is around 15 percent.
The administration here at Humboldt State says that the dorms are at full, 100 percent, capacity this year – this is a falsehood. We know this because we are students, and we talk to each other. We know there are empty beds in on-campus housing. We know there are habitable structures on campus that are unused.
The school wants us to believe that every student at HSU is part of the community and we all look out for one another. If this was the case, we would have more resources for students with no other place to go.
It is illegal to sleep in public spaces; it is illegal to sleep in private ones without permission. Where are these people supposed to go? Our hous
ing issues in Humboldt are twofold: there is not enough housing and that makes it too expensive for many people. HSU needs to become a sanctuary for people who have no place to go at night. It already is during the day. We proudly open our doors to the community during the day, but during the cold, wet, winter nights they are shut and locked. This must stop.
We are a community of concerned people, many of whom have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness in Humboldt County. We are demanding the following actions be taken by the school to start to address this issue and stop ignoring it.
The Library must be open 24/7 for people to seek refuge in. Stop locking in the warmth. All available housing on campus must be made available as emergency housing for community members in need. Stop excluding people from empty spaces that no one pays for already.
HSU must instruct all enforcement entities to not enforce any vagrancy laws or otherwise criminalize homelessness at HSU. If we can’t be here, where do we go?
Failure to meet these demands means that the school does not care about the students or the community it resides in. The students will continue to take action at inopportune times for the University - spring preview, transfer orientation, freshman orientation. We will no longer be silent and allow our problems to be moved out of view. We hope that the school swiftly begins to address this injustice.
The name game
Some people in Arcata are troubled by the statue standing in the middle of the Plaza.
The problem is not the statue; the problem is the name on it. Without the name “William McKinley” no one would no who it was. In reality I would guess that fewer than 1 percent of the populace knows who he is and fewer know what he looks like.
This leaves the city with some options:
1. Leave it the way it is
2.. Remove it at great expense
3. Change the name on it.
A sign could be placed over the present name chiseled in the granite base. For instance, the sign could say “Millard Fillmore” because even fewer people know who he was and even I don’t know what he looked like.
If you really want to go cheap, then just putty in the “c” on McKinley and you have William M Kinley. You can make up whatever story on this fictitious name, in fact, you could have an essay contest to write the biography of this person.
My story would point out that William M Kinley was born Willamina Kinley and was the first transgender male west of the Rockies and with his right hand he is pointing to a safe place where the Native Americans could hide during “European Problems.”
That should alleviate the problem with the plaque on the southwest corner by indicating there were two sides to the problems of that era.
This could be done for under $100. What could go wrong?