Mother denied asylum after seeking sanctuary at SLC church for 6 months

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah)- After taking sanctuary in a Salt Lake City church for six months, a Utah mother has been denied asylum.

Vicky Chavez has been staying in the First Unitarian Church since January 30th, waiting for her case to be heard. 

Chavez fled domestic violence and civil unrest in Honduras in 2014. She has been trying to get asylum in the United States ever since.

“Coming to the United States meant safety from a man who suggested that he knows people who could harm my family,” Chavez told News4Utah back in January.

After waiting six months for her asylum, Chavez’s advocate Easton Smith says her family has been denied.

“Vicky will be appealing to the 10th circuit court of appeals to try to reverse the decision made by the [Border of Immigration Appeals],” said Smith.

Smith says Chavez plans to wait out her case in the safety of the sanctuary for as long as necessary.

“I have faith that I will be able to leave the church and wait for my response from the board without fear of being arrested,” she said. “I want to be able to live a normal life, where my daughter will be able to return to school, and I will be able to visit my family whenever I’d like.”

Monday evening, the community rallied around Chavez and her family outside of the First Unitarian Church where she has been staying. The church is located at 569 South 1300 East.

Her family, friends, and supporters gathered at the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City to show support Chavez and her two daughters.

“Our nation’s immigration system is broken, and our elected officials have refused to fix it,” said Reverend Monica Dobbins, an assistant Minister at the First Unitarian Church. “Nevertheless, we were and we are committed to take Vicky’s side in fair weather and foul no matter what.”

Chavez’s supporters say she has a strong case, and that’s why she plans to appeal it to the 10th District Court of Appeals.

“They were fleeing domestic violence in Honduras,” said Easton Smith, a legal support coordinator. “She came seeking refuge in safety and hope because the government was unable to protect her.”

Chavez says appealing is the safest decision for her family.

“I will continue to fight for my case,” said Chavez. “It’s important to know that there are other people like me that deserve to be here.”

Chavez says she has received death threats from the father of her oldest daughter, and she wants a better life for her children.

“Vicky’s little baby, who is about to celebrate her first birthday, has spent half her life in sanctuary,” said 
Joan Gregory, Director of Sanctuary, First Unitarian Church. 

Vicky now calls America her home. Her parents are U.S. citizens and live in Utah. She could gain citizenship through them, but that’s a 10-year process, and that’s not even guaranteed.

“Families belong together. Vicky’s family belongs together,” said Gregory.

Smith says he has never seen a sanctuary raided before, but if Chavez’s case is denied again, they’ll take it to the Supreme Court. Regardless of these legal denials, Chavez says she has hope.

“Now I feel so calm and I have hope and faith in God that everything will be good,” said Chavez. 

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