SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) — On January 31, 2018, undocumented immigrant, Vicky Chavez, who was ordered to leave the United States, was about to board a flight and return to Honduras.
Instead, she found refuge and support at the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City.
“I’ve never imagined that by going through the sanctuary process that I would be surrounded by such wonderful people,” said Chavez. “I’ve never met nor felt such love from so many people.”
For now, Chavez and her two daughters are safe from deportation as long as they stay inside a place the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, considers a sensitive location.
Chavez’s youngest daughter learned how to walk inside the church.
“Whenever you ask Vicky ‘why did you choose sanctuary? Why did you do this?’ Always her answer is that ‘I want to keep my kids safe,'” said Amy Dominguez, Chavez’s friend and Unidad Immigrante worker.
Chavez says she came to America to escape domestic violence and civil unrest, but now in America, she lives as if she’s on house arrest.
It’s been 105 days since Chavez and her two daughters left the church. If they went outside, they’d be breaking the law.
“What’s frustrating about this in particular is Vicky entered the United States under asylum protection so she didn’t come ‘illegally.’ She’s been doing things the legal way,” said Dominguez. “The legal system does not always work out.”
Chavez says she wants her daughter to have a better future in America.
“She doesn’t deserve a future in Honduras that is a country that doesn’t have the best conditions for her,” said Chavez.
It could be July before Chavez learns what could happen to her.
“I’d be happy if they let me out (of the church),” said Chavez. “The first thing I’d do is to visit and hug my mom like I would always do, but no. I can’t leave the church building and take that risk and neither can my girls.”
Chavez’s friend says she wants people to realize that Chavez is not a criminal, and people should put themselves in her shoes.
“She is not different from any other mother who just wants the very best for her children,” said Dominguez.