Maria Chavalan-Sut of Guatemala speaks during an interview at the Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Charlottesville, Va., on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. Chavalan-Sut is among a number of immigrants taking sanctuary at houses of worship who have received letters from immigration authorities notifying them of their intent to impose a civil fine of up to $799 a day. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Immigrants taking sanctuary in churches hit with huge fines

July 30, 2019 - 4:21 pm

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Maria Chavalan-Sut, an indigenous woman from Guatemala, has spent 10 months living in makeshift quarters at a Methodist church trying to stave off a deportation order to a country she says has scarred her life with violence and discrimination. Her fight for asylum could now cost her at least $214,132.

Chavalan-Sut is among immigrants taking sanctuary at houses of worship who have been threatened with huge fines under the latest move by the Trump administration. It's unclear how many have been targeted, but Church World Service, a group that supports refugees and immigrants, is aware of at least six who've received letters.

Forty-five people currently live in sanctuary at churches across the U.S., the group says. Immigration officials consider churches "sensitive locations" in which enforcement action is generally avoided.

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