Sanctuary: First Unitarian Universalist Church
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
In 2014, Vicky Chávez-Fino fled domestic abuse and violence in her native Honduras to seek asylum in the U.S. She came to Utah to be with the rest of her family who were already living here. Once in the U.S., Vicky had the misfortune of being very poorly represented throughout her early legal efforts to attain asylum and her initial case was denied. In that denial, the immigration judge recommended that Vicky appeal his decision and hire new counsel to effectively represent her. So, in December 2017, Vicky filed a motion with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to have her asylum case reopened, but before that motion could be heard by the BIA, Vicky was issued an order of deportation.
On the evening of January 30, 2018, her suitcase was packed but she had hope that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would call her while she was waiting at the airport to grant her a last-minute stay of removal that would have temporarily prevented her deportation. But instead, it was her lawyer who called to tell her that her request had been denied. Fearing for her safety and that of her two young daughters, she decided to take sanctuary at First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City. In June 2018, the BIA denied Vicky’s request to reopen her case. In November 2018, Vicky filed an appeal of the BIA’s decision with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Vicky filed numerous stay of removal requests with ICE. Those requests were ignored or denied every time. In July 2019, Vicky received notification that ICE intended to order her to pay a fine in excess of $453,832 for being in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Vicky’s attorney successfully challenged the fine in September 2019 and ICE withdrew the notice of intent to fine in October 2019, only to issue a new lesser fine of $59,126, which is currently being appealed.
Efforts to engage with our Utah federal congressional delegation have been met with mixed results and very little action. Vicky is the mother of two young daughters, ages 3 and 9, one of whom is a U.S. citizen. The youngest was 5 months old when Vicky entered Sanctuary and has therefore spent over 86% of her young life in Sanctuary.
Sanctuary (video): https://films.radiowest.org/film/sanctuary – 2018
Shelter In Place (video): https://vimeo.com/388120215 – 2020