The Church responded to questions about its stance on sanctuary for undocumented immigrants Wednesday. The statement came after LDS mom Vicky Chavez sought sanctuary in the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City Tuesday to avoid deportation to Honduras. Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said:
"All Church members, regardless of immigration status, are welcome to participate in our worship services and to serve in the Church," the statement from Church spokesman Eric Hawkins reads. "Likewise, the Church authorizes bishops to provide life-sustaining assistance to Church members without regard to immigration status. Local Church leaders may also refer members with immigration needs to capable legal counsel. In recent years, the Church has partnered with community and legal organizations to provide clinics where individuals can receive help, including with immigration questions and processes. The Church does not seek to interfere with or participate in the enforcement of immigration laws, instead encouraging individual members to pursue all legal means to resolve their immigration status."
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According to the policy outlined in a 2011 memo from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, immigration officers are not allowed to enter sensitive locations like churches, schools, or hospitals to make arrests. However, there are no laws in place to prevent immigration agents from entering a church and arresting Chavez, separating her from her two children.
According to fox13now.com, Chavez left Honduras in 2014 to avoid social and economic upheaval. After exhausting legal options, she went to the Unitarian Church Tuesday instead of boarding a flight to Honduras, afraid she might be beaten or killed upon her return to her home country and not wanting her daughters to be exposed to those dangers, according to fox13now.com.