Mother shares story of being denied asylum, after seeking sanctuary in church for 6 months

SALT LAKE CITY - A mother seeking sanctuary in a Salt Lake City church for the last six months has been denied her appeal to reopen her asylum case.

In a rare step in these kinds of cases, Vicky Chavez decided she will appeal the denial to the 10th Circuit Court. While the process is heartbreaking, Vicky says she remains hopeful.

“When I found out the decision to reopen my case was denied I cried. I cried out of anger, out of rage and sadness. But I still keep fighting,” Vicky said.

The young mother's battle for freedom and her family's future is far from over.

“I know that not everything is lost. While we have a light at the end of the tunnel, I will continue to fight for my case,” Vicky said.

For six long months, Vicky and her two daughters have been confined within the walls of the first Unitarian church.

“It's confinement; it means separation from home, family friends and community,” said Joan Gregory, Director of the Sanctuary Effort at the First Unitarian Church.

Vicky made the difficult decision to seek sanctuary back in January. The First Unitarian Church opened their doors to the LDS convert after Vicky refused to board her deportation flight to Honduras, a place she escaped from in 2014 because of domestic violence.

“Appealing is my only option to try to reopen my asylum case while keeping my family safe,” Vicky said.

While they're safe, seeking sanctuary is anything but simple.

“The hardest thing at the moment is my daughters cannot live a normal life,” Vicky said.

Just days ago Vicky celebrated her youngest daughter's first birthday, who has spent half her life in the church. Still, Vicky is doing what she can to provide a normal life for her daughters.

“We had a big party with a big cake and big piñata everything [was] fun,” Vicky said.

Vicky is uncertain of how many birthdays her and her family will have to celebrate here.

“First Unitarian Church will journey with Vicky as long as it takes to resolve her case,” Reverend Monica Dobbins said.

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

There is no law preventing ICE from storming the church, but they do have policies that protect sacred places. Vicky says her case highlights the broken system in America and the countless mothers who are suffering. She’s challenging everyone who hears her story to talk to their representatives to make changes.