SALT LAKE CITY — After spending over three years in sanctuary inside a Salt Lake City church, Vicky Chavez and her two children are now free to leave Thursday.
The fear of deportation has dissipated for Chavez now that she has been granted one year of stay on her immigration case.
"We have been waiting for this day for more than 39 months, and I'm here sharing with everybody that I'm free right now and I can't believe it," said Chavez in a news conference.
"I can't believe it!"
Chavez and her two daughters fled from Honduras in 2014, where she said her daughter’s father abused her. In January of 2018, Chavez found sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church.
A classroom inside the church became the place Chavez and her two daughters would call home for the next 1,168 days — never losing hope.
Mayors Jenny Wilson and Erin Mendenhall spoke in front of a crowd of friends supporting Chavez and her journey, commenting on the light and hope Chavez brings to the Salt Lake community.
“This is a woman of great power and love, and tremendous influence on our community,” said Mendenhall, Mayor of Salt Lake City.
After a quick hug and with tears in her eyes, Salt Lake County Mayor Wilson talked about the changes she hopes Chavez’s story will ignite.
“What we need most in our county and our state and our world, is more compassion,” said Wilson.
Wilson called on Utah’s delegates in Congress to help make changes to the current U.S. immigration law.
Chavez’s attorney, Skyler Anderson, said the current asylum law is complicated and flawed.
“This system is tearing things apart and creating far more problems than they are solving,” said Anderson.
To a round of applause from supporters, Chavez made the announcement that she will no longer need to stay inside property
"I came to these shores with an empty, aching broken heart, but with the hope and faith to continue with my family, and today I can say that I am full of love and happy to have arrived here," said Chavez
"Now we can fly like a butterfly."
Chavez said that she will spend her first free day with family. Her mother, sister and brothers live in Utah and Chavez says she will remain in the state.
"Today, I leave the room that I've called home."
While she is cleared to leave the church, Chavez says she will now fight for others and hopes to be an inspiration those who face deportation like her.
"They never need to lose the hope, and we need to fight for them, too, because it's not just my fight," said Chavez.
In thanking those who have supported her since arriving at the church, Chavez had a special request.
"You can all take a vacation, rest and enjoy your family."