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Unitarian Church prepared to house asylum seeker for as long as necessary

SALT LAKE CITY – A woman is making headlines for seeking asylum inside a church to avoid being deported to Honduras.  Officials with that church say they’re prepared to let her stay as long as she needs.

(Photo Credit: Unidad Inmigrante)

The leadership of the First Unitarian Church say anyone asking for asylum in a church is extremely rare.  Reverend Monica Dobbins says, “We’ve never been asked to do it before. We’re the first in Utah.”

The asylum seeker, Vicky Chavez and her children, are not allowed to leave the church, or they risk being arrested.  So, the church has set up a space for them to sleep, they’re helping her buy groceries so she can cook in the kitchen, and they’re helping her with laundry.

Dobbins say Chavez is in the middle of a unique legal situation.   “Vicky has an asylum case that’s going through the courts.  She is going through the legal process to be able to stay in the United States,” Dobbins says, however, “She also has a deportation case that’s going along, and that case has moved faster.”  Dobbins says their decision to let her stay is designed to buy Chavez time until the asylum case finishes.

The arrangement was set up by the group Unidad Inmigrante.  Organizer Fabiola Madrigal says they felt it was too dangerous to allow Chavez to go back to Honduras.  “She has two little girls.  After knowing her history of domestic violence in her place of origin, we decided that this was an option that we needed to have prepared in case she wanted to use it,” Madrigal says.