Guatemalan Woman Living in Charlottesville Speaks Out after ICE Threatens Fines
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, a Guatemalan woman, and attorneys are preparing to fight Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The church has been offering her refuge while she seeks asylum from threats in her home country.
On Wednesday, July 10, she spoke out to say that her long and torturous journey is now more complicated after ICE threatened her with a $200,000 fine.
Maria Chavalan Sut has been thousands of miles away from her family and friends for almost four years as she works to seek asylum in the United States. And for the last nine months, she's been living inside Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.
“I've come for many reasons,” Sut said.
Sut's journey from Guatemala to the U.S. has been far from easy. On Wednesday, NBC29 spoke with her through an interpreter.
“The last thing that motivated me to come here was when my house was intentionally set on fire,” Sut said.
Now, she calls a Charlottesville church home.
“I'm in God's house, and that has healed me," Sut said.
Sut wears an ankle monitoring device that ICE officers put on her. Once she steps outside, she's at risk for being picked up and deported.
“No one can imagine what it's like to be here and be stuck here for nine months away from family with a bunch of strangers who don't really speak her language, yeah it takes an incredible amount of strength and on top of that ICE is putting pressure on her," Isaac Collins, the pastor at the church, said.
ICE is threatening to fine her $214,132 for missing her court date and failing to report to ICE.
“The government has put a price on Maria's life - a per-day fine of $799," Collins said.
“There is no reason for them to be fining me,” Sut said.
Sut says she plans to take this matter to the courthouse and continue fighting to become a citizen.
“I have my rights and I will continue fighting for those rights,” Sut said.
She has 30 days to write a written defense on why this fine should not be imposed. Her lawyer is currently working on that, and no court date has yet been set.
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