After 3 years in church sanctuary, Vicky Chavez celebrates stay of deportation, freedom to step outside building

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, April 15, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — After three years, two months and two weeks in the sanctuary of First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, Honduran refugee Vicky Chavez took her first step outside the building on Thursday.

Chavez, who said she left her home country with her two young daughters after suffering domestic abuse, was granted a stay of deportation while her attorney pursues her immigration case in hopes of gaining permanent residency for her.

“It is indeed an extremely happy day for the entire congregation,” the Rev. Tom Goldsmith, senior minister of the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City told those in attendance. “We’re just delighted…. You really get to know a family after three years of daily contact, and the love has only grown deeper every day.”

Goldsmith said he was proud of all Chavez has accomplished so far.

“Vicky’s life is no longer on hold,” he said. “She leaves this church with a full grasp of the English language, a couple hundred friends, and the confidence to pursue her dreams. We don’t need to wish her well. She has the power, the will, the intelligence and the charm to make her way through life as a compassionate leader and a generous contributor to society. We hope that Vicki is not too busy, she will come back and visit us on occasion. We would be extremely happy to see you and your daughters whenever possible.”

Chavez also spoke, thanking Goldsmith, congregation members, her attorneys, and community members who had championed her cause. She said church members supported and comforted her, and treated her and her daughters like family during what she described not as three years but as “1,158 days.”

She thanked her supporters for “making my fighting their fighting.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall welcomed Chavez to the city outside the church walls. She posted a video of the church ceremony for Chavez, viewable at the top of this story.

“Today I was honored to celebrate with Vicky Chavez, who was guided by hope and faith as she lived with her daughters in sanctuary at First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City for the last three years,” Mendenhall said in her Facebook post.

“While the path to permanent residency will be long, today we celebrate the stay of removal. You and your children are welcome here!”




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