With fire in her heart and truth on her lips


By Tim Crews, The Sacramento Valley Mirror, Publisher

Published March 29, 2014

Willows – Erika Portillo is an attorney with two rules before all others: Tell your clients the truth and take a case only when you have a passion for it.

She and others from the Davis and Concord firm of Guichard, Teng & Portello have opened an office, here, primarily for Ms. Portillo’s immigration law practice.

She herself is an immigrant, coming to the U.S. after a career in Mexico as a prosecutor and as a lawyer with a civil practice.

She came here, took a law degree, taught herself English and passed the bar. Passing the California bar is a major challenge. She was admitted to the bar in 2007.

But what makes Ms. Portillo’s practice remarkable is her source of passion for the law. “I was the youngest of nine. And when my dad would discipline my brothers, I felt powerless.”

From that feeling came a passion for justice.

Immigration law is certainly not the stuff of television miniseries, nor of much primetime news. That said, the clear-eyed Ms. Portillo says, “I want to defend people who want o stay here.” However, if she thinks they should not or does not have the passion for a case, it won’t go across her desk.

“If I don’t feel the passion for it…when I take a case I take it fully committed.”

“I do analysis. I tell them the truth.” If they are not going to prevail, she won’t waste their money.

Her clients are frankly terrified, very stressed, going to a hearing and believing that they will be deported on the spot. But cases need to be heard in full and the backup is two to three years in the immigration judge courts, where shortages of staff are legendary.

Sometimes they have gone to notaries for document authentication and that adds to the confusion. In Mexico, all the notaries are also attorneys.

Born and raised in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, Ms. Portillo earned her Master of Laws in United States Legal Studies from Golden Gate University School of Law, and her J.D. from La Universidad Autonama del Estado the Morelos in Mexico. She is licensed to practice law in the U.S. and in Mexico as well.

Law practice here is more intense perhaps because it is case based, with new decisions coming down frequently influencing the way things are decided.

Mexican law, she noted, is based on Roman Law, much more set in stone.

That said, she spends much of her free time keeping up on immigration law. The new decisions can come out as frequently as daily.

What does she do when she isn’t studying or keeping up with new cases? “As you see,” she said, holding up her left hand, “I am not married. I do like dining and dancing,” she added with a Mona Lisa smile.

In addition to the Willows office in the Miller Realty Complex at 103 South Plumas, Ms. Portillo’s firm plans to open a San Francisco office. That’s because that is where cases are heard.

From here resume:

Ms. Portillo is admitted to practice law in the State of California, the U.S. District Court Northern District, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Ms. Portillo is also admitted to practice law in Mexico. While in Mexico, Ms. Portillo first practiced criminal law as a prosecutor in the State of Morelos, then moved on to civil law. She currently focuses her practice on immigration law.

Ms. Portillo is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Contra Costa County, Robert G. McGrath American Inn of Court, Contra Costa County Bar Association, Contra Costa County Bar Association Women’s Section, and Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Posse. She is also the former president of the Hispanic Cancer Association.

The best telephone for the moment is (925) 459-8440 or she can be reached by email at

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