DENVER – Honduran immigrant Vicky Chavez, for whom a deportation order has been issued and who has requested asylum as a victim of domestic violence in her homeland, took refuge on Wednesday in a Salt Lake City church with her two daughters, ages 4 months and 6 years.
Amy Dominguez, the spokesperson for Unidad Inmigrante, told EFE that Chavez, 30, and her two daughters are being sheltered in the First Unitarian Church, a decision that the Honduran made at the last minute, even after she had bought the tickets to return to her homeland.
“We were already organizing Vicky’s departure ... when she decided to stay. She came here for a better life and ... decided not to return to Honduras,” the activist said.
“The asylum was never approved or denied. So, she’ll be in the church ... until her case is reopened and the Appeals Board at Immigration makes a decision,” Dominguez said.
Meanwhile, church pastor Tom Goldsmith said at a press conference that his congregation “unanimously voted eight years ago” to allow the site to be a “sanctuary for those who need it.”
Chavez does not belong to the Unitarian Church but rather to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church.
Volunteers from various organizations will help Chavez with routine daily tasks, said Kristin Knippenberg, with the Salt Lake City Sanctuary Solidarity Network.
The precautions are being taken to avoid what happened with Guatemalan citizen Maria Garcia Santiago, who was deported from Salt Lake City last Dec. 25.
Her deportation seemed to become accelerated, Dominguez said, when the support of Unidad Inmigrante for Santiago became public.
“Immigration and Customs Enforcement can still enter the church and arrest (Chavez). If that happens, our plan is ... to use our cameras to show the public what it is to be a mother arrested in front of her daughters,” Dominguez said.
“The (asylum request) process can last a year. But ... we can’t let them deport mothers from Utah. Vicky would have been the second mother deported in less than a month. How many families have to be deported before anyone does anything?” the activist added.
According to information provided by Unidad Inmigrante, Chavez came to the US legally in 2014 and requested asylum as a victim of domestic violence and also because of her homeland’s economic and social instability.