Prayer Vigil Opposes SF 2340, Supports Immigrant Families

June 10, 2024

2 people holding candles at Sunday's prayer vigil

“We gather to pray, not to protest.”

These were Bishop Joensen’s opening words to the more than 100 people that attended last night’s prayer vigil, held in opposition of SF 2340, a new state law regarding immigration that is set to go into effect on July 1st.

This prayer vigil was held on the eve of two major lawsuits against the bill, filed by civil rights groups and the Department of Justice, with arguments set to begin on Monday morning at 9:30 AM.

Families first! No SF 2340

During the vigil there was music, worship, and a scripture reading before members of the community spoke about the impact that this law could have on families in Iowa.

Members of the African community at St. Ambrose performing a song before the vigil
Members of the African community at St. Ambrose perform a song before the vigil

Ry Meyer, an immigration attorney who works for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Dubuque, explained the legal complications behind immigration law, stating “immigration law is the only thing that makes the tax code look easy.”

Meyer further explained that this bill will impact everyday people who are actively pursuing legal status and doesn’t include any exceptions for U or T visas, which help victims of crime who were trafficked to the United States.

“It is especially problematic that SF 2340 will explicitly allow state officials to prosecute an individual for state immigration crimes, even if that person is pursuing legally admissible mean for immigration relief before federal authorities or have actually received federal authorization to be present.”

Ry Meyers, immigration attorney, explains legal arguments surrounding SF 2340
Ry Meyers, immigration attorney, explains legal arguments surrounding SF 2340

Marisol Guerra, a teacher who leads the language immersion program  at St. Anthony Catholic school, spoke about her personal experiences of immigrating to Iowa and becoming part of the community.

Marisol Guerra, teach at St. Anthony Catholic school
Marisol Guerra, teacher at St. Anthony's Catholic School

“We came here and the city embraced us. The people would smile and say hi. They were so nice to us. It was so safe to be here. We could drive around at midnight, and I wasn’t afraid of being kidnapped, murdered or carjacked. We would sleep in peace knowing that if something happened someone would help us, that if we called the police they would come. This city welcomed us as a family of immigrants and made us feel at home.”

This warm welcome was a comfort. While grateful for the opportunity to be here, Guerra notes that the choice to leave is never easy or simple.

“Nobody leaves their homeland, or their home, because they want to” she says.

Despite the difficult times that may lay ahead, Guerra encouraged those present to stay strong.

“I know that what I'm going to say is not easy, but don't be afraid. Don't put your heads down. Don't walk with your heads down. Because this is our second home and we have nothing to be ashamed of because we come from another country or being immigrants. Walk with your head up high.”

Following Guerra's talk Bishop Joensen led the crowd in a bilingual rosary before sending people forth with a blessing.

"Above all, we look to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to intercede for us and to spur us to lighten the yoke of life by removing those undue burdens and obstacles we humans sometimes place on others."

3 women praying with rosaries at the June 9th prayer vigil