First Unitarian Church joins lawsuit over sanctuary fines

Mar 24, 2021, 2:52 PM | Updated: 4:06 pm
Screen shot of the First Unitarian Church news conference held March 24, 2021. Vicky Chavez is in the upper left. Rev. Tom Goldsmith center right and David Bennion top center. (screenshot)

SALT LAKE CITY — The church that for more than three years has offered sanctuary to an immigrant from Honduras and her children is joining a lawsuit against the federal government and its sanctuary fines. Vicky Chavez has been living in an upstairs classroom at First Unitarian with her two daughters, who are 9 years and 3-1/2 years old.

She was facing deportation back to Honduras when she came to the church.

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

Chavez is one of four women who are plaintiffs in a suit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, challenging the sanctuary fines imposed against Chavez and three other women also living in sanctuary churches in Ohio, Virginia and Texas. All were facing large fines — initially more than $400,000 but later reduced to just under $60,000.

Those fines were one reason First Unitarian Church announced today that it was also joining the suit as a plaintiff. 

“These fines are not only unconscionable but illegal,” said Rev. Tom Goldsmith. “As a faith community, we cannot remain passive.”

About the fines, Chavez told KSL Newsradio, “Hello — I don’t have $60,000 in the account or bank, I don’t have $60,000 under my bed, because this is crazy.”

RELATED:  Asylum denied for mother staying at Salt Lake church

She also expressed gratitude t0 the church that has been her home.

“It was an act of faith for First Unitarian Church to offer sanctuary to me and my daughters, and an act of faith for me to accept,” she said.

Several immigrant advocacy groups are backing the lawsuit as well. David Bennion, executive director of the Free Migration Project, told a news conference Wednesday, “We thought the Biden administration would quickly drop these egregious civil fines. Yet here we are, over two months into the Biden presidency, and ICE is still pursuing these fines.”

Chavez and the other women are hoping the case will eventually lead to stays of their deportation orders and allow them and their children to remain in the United States. Until then, Vicky uses her time and talents to create crochet figures, including one of President Biden.

sanctuary fines

Vicky Chavez poses with one of her handmade dolls. Photo credit: Vicky Chavez

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

The Chinese national flag is seen at the entrance to the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing...
By Zachary Cohen, CNN

A look at China’s history of spying in the US

The suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that violated American airspace this week has fueled a diplomatic crisis with the postponement of Secretary of State Antony Blinken's planned trip to Beijing.
19 hours ago
Around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, February 4, a 34-year-old female sustained critical injuries after being...
Waverly Golden

AirMed responds to tubing accident in Peter Sinks, Logan

Around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, February 4, a 34-year-old female sustained critical injuries after being struck by a snowmobile.
19 hours ago
A balloon flies in the sky over Billings, Montana, U.S. February 1, 2023, in this picture obtained ...
Zachary Cohen, CNN

US military has shot down the Chinese spy balloon off US East Coast, US official says

The US military has shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard, a US official said Saturday.
19 hours ago
The Goonies House...
Taylor Romine and Ralph Ellis, CNN

Man wanted for leaving a dead fish at ‘The Goonies’ house saved by Coast Guard in daring rescue

A man wanted by police in an incident at a house featured in "The Goonies" was the subject of a Coast Guard rescue when he was tossed from a stolen boat as it capsized, authorities said.
19 hours ago
SLCPD said the driver is fully cooperating with the investigation and the children received non-lif...
Chandler Holt

SLCPD makes arrest connected to fatal stabbing case

SLCPD announced the arrest of 26-year-old Ivy Chase Grant today. Grant was booked into Salt Lake County Metro Jail on a charge of obstruction of justice. 
19 hours ago
Troy Dunn, founder of the Location Foundation, appears on an episode of Dr. Phil. Photo credit: Des...
Mark Jones

Locator Foundation working to reunite loved ones with one another

The Locator Foundation is working to reunite family members who have become separated from one another and haven't been able to reconnect.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
First Unitarian Church joins lawsuit over sanctuary fines