SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A Honduran immigrant woman and her two daughters, who spent three years trapped in a Utah church sanctuary while fearing deportation, stepped outside confidently Thursday.
Vicky Chavez walked proudly out of First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City under a banner that read “celebrate FREEDOM.”
Vicky Chavez celebrates Thursday as she steps outside First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City for the first time in 1,168 days, as church congregants cheered. (Rick Bowmer/)
Chavez and her young daughters entered the church in January 2018. They came to the U.S. in June 2014, seeking asylum from Chavez’s abusive boyfriend. But her case was rejected, with a final deportation appeal failing in January 2018.
Then, after she was given a plane ticket to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the church offered Chavez and her daughters sanctuary, the Associated Press reported. She stayed there for the next 1,168 days.
Chavez’s departure came after Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a one year stay of removal, the AP reported. Local and church leaders, along with Chavez’s lawyers, criticized U.S. immigration policy.
“There are millions of Vickys in this country — I’ve represented many of them,” attorney Skylar Anderson said. “There aren’t enough churches to give sanctuary to all the Vickys of this country. This country needs to be that sanctuary.”