ORANGE CITY, Iowa | Northwestern College graduate Martha Draayer has a master's degree from the University of South Dakota. She and husband, Dan Draayer, have three children. Martha has two loving parents, two supportive sisters.
Martha has a job at the Northwest Area Education Agency, where she serves as a bilingual early childhood special education teacher and consultant. She's also an instructor in Northwestern's Master of Education degree program.
Martha Draayer's future, however, remains shrouded in mystery, for she's also a "dreamer," a newcomer covered in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program instituted by President Barack Obama's executive order in 2012.
She is not a U.S. citizen, and remains living, working and waiting, enduring her ninth year of a 10-year bar on citizenship.
While some lawmakers lead you to believe that all illegal aliens from Mexico are rapists, murderers and drug runners, Martha Draayer and millions like her, represent kinder, gentler newcomers, mothers and fathers, students and workers bent on making life in the one country they largely know a better place for themselves and those they love.
Draayer spoke to Northwestern staff members and the student body on Tuesday, sharing details of her faith and complicated life journey as part of Justice Week, which began with the observance of the holiday honoring the legacy of justice seeker Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Draayer was 3 years old when she crossed from Mexico into the U.S. the first time, following her mother, Martha Perez, and joining little sister, Angelica, as they headed north to Sibley, Iowa, to reunite with her father, Andres Perez, who traveled north in March 1991 to fill a job on the kill floor at Monfort Foods, then a pork processing plant at Worthington, Minnesota.
The family left home carrying border-crossing visas, a type of long-term tourist visa that, according to Martha Draayer, no longer exists. "We overstayed our welcome," she said.
The economy in Mexico wobbled at the time. Work was plentiful in Northwest Iowa for Martha and Andres Perez, who worked in the packing plant, then at local farms, then for a Sioux Center industry for a decade before settling back to handle cattle and hogs for a farm outside Orange City, where Andres currently works.
The couple had another daughter while living in Iowa. All three girls were educated in Sioux County. Martha earned a 3.8 grade-point average before graduating from Boyden-Hull High School in 2005.
And while she had a Social Security number for education purposes only, young Martha couldn't qualify for financial aid beyond academic and music scholarships. She didn't even have a driver's license, an outcome of being unable to produce a birth certificate required to take driver's education courses. At age 16, she recalled, an officer pulled her over for having an expired license plate. Upon learning Martha didn't have a license, the officer drove her home and gave her a warning.
Prompted by an admissions counselor, Northwestern College officials met with Martha and her parents and they took a chance on the Comet graduate. She majored in psychology and K-12 education and minored in Spanish. She didn't earn a major in Spanish because she would have been required to study abroad. Knowing she couldn't travel outside the U.S. -- and have assurance of returning -- she settled for a minor. It's the same reason she eschewed the chance to participate in NWC music groups, as bands and choirs often travel to perform outside the U.S.
As a junior at Northwestern in 2007, Martha wed Dan Draayer, a U.S. citizen who works as produce manager for Fareway in Sioux Center. The newlyweds embarked on the naturalization process immediately, one that took the couple back to Mexico for a meeting before the U.S. Consulate in Martha's hometown, Ciudad Juarez.
"I went before the consulate for an interview. He had my papers and asked if I had entered the U.S. illegally," she remembered. She had, twice. The first took place when she was 3. The second when her parents returned the family to Mexico for a 5-month period during Martha's junior year at Boyden-Hull. Her parents found Mexico's economy in a shambles and life uncertain, if not unsafe, for their daughters. So, they returned to Hull and their work on Sioux County farms.
"I knew I had committed a violation and I expected a fine," Martha said.
The official turned her down and said she wasn't available for a waiver. He imposed a 10-year bar on Martha from entering the U.S.
Said Martha, "I was in shock, numb."
She was forced to stay in Mexico as Dan and his mother, Brenda Draayer, returned to Iowa. Martha went to live with her grandmother in Coahuila, Mexico, as family members implored leaders at Northwestern to write letters on Martha's behalf. Letters were sent by Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin as well.
"Nothing changed," said Martha, who finished her senior year by emailing assignments and papers back to professors at Northwestern.
As her case stalled over a 13-month time frame, Martha was contacted by her lawyer in the U.S. She learned changes could be coming in immigration, changes that may force her to remain thousands of miles from her husband and the way of life she knew in Northwest Iowa. She came to the realization her best option would be risky: It would involve hiring a "coyote" to help her cross again, illegally, into the U.S.
"It was hard to put myself in that situation," she said. "But I really didn't think I had other options. Thankfully, I saw God's hand in it."
At the risk of being raped, murdered or exploited, the lone woman in a group of five to 10 men, Martha set out and made the crossing, floating in an inner tube across the Rio Grande River and joining a man she didn't know in sneaking into the U.S. in the dead of night. She passed within 50 feet of a border patrol officer.
A relative met her at a park and transported her to a motel, whereupon she was reunited with her husband and mother-in-law, and, together, the three of them drove north, back to Iowa.
Two years later, Martha qualified for protection under Obama's executive order that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, a program the Trump administration seeks to end, beginning in March.
"And now, I wait," she said. "I don't know what the president is going to do."
As Martha Draayer spoke in Christ Chapel on Tuesday, lawmakers on Capitol Hill girded for a showdown involving the program and immigration as a whole. Draayer talked about the fallacy of newcomers who are directed to "get in line."
"There is no line," she contended. "I was petitioned by my husband and I still can't get in line."
At 31, this educated mother of three works each day to educate children in Sioux Center and beyond. She's now sharing her personal story in the hopes young and old are motivated out of empathy, or love, or justice to persuade legislators to address a broken immigration system.
"My status is still pending," she said. "I have a whole year to wait before I can apply for citizenship. I do not know what that process will bring. [Tweet this]
"Moving forward there needs to be a pathway to citizenship," she concluded. "It must be passed as a bill, a law. Not as an executive order that can come and go. We need a pathway, not just for 'dreamers' but their parents as this can still break families apart."
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Gov. Pete Ricketts is backing a proposal to raise the speed limit on parts of Interstate 80 in Nebraska as well as other state highways.
Introduced Tuesday, the bill (LB1009) by Sens. John Murante of Gretna and Curt Friesen of Henderson would allow the state Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit on I-80 to 80 mph, up from 75 mph.
Six other states allow maximum speeds of 80 mph, including neighboring South Dakota. Texas allows speeds up to 85 mph on some interstate segments.
Murante said Nebraskans across the state have voiced support for raising speed limits on local highways to speed up travel between rural communities and small towns mostly connected by two-lane highways.
"We believe we can get that done and accommodate that desire without jeopardizing the people of Nebraska," he said, adding better continuity of speed limits will benefit motorists everywhere.
The speed limit on I-80 between Lincoln and Omaha would increase immediately if the proposal goes into effect, Murante said. Other speed limit increases included in the bill are:
* 50 miles per an hour on a highway not on gravel
* 65 miles per hour on any four-lane, divided highway not part of the state highway system
* 65 miles per hour on a “super-two highway,” a two-lane highway designed for through traffic with intermittent passing lanes.
* 70 miles per hour on an expressway or super-two highway that is part of the state highway system
* 70 miles per hour on a freeway that is not part of the interstate system
The speed limit for Interstate 129, which crosses the Iowa border into South Sioux City would remain at 65 mph, as would I-80 in the Omaha area and Interstate 180 in Lincoln.
Ricketts says the measure would make Nebraska’s transportation system more effective, efficient and customer-focused.
The proposal will likely face resistance from highway safety groups like the Nebraska Safety Council, which argue that higher speed limits have been linked to more fatalities.
According to a 20-year study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, speed limit increases of 5 mph on interstate and freeways were associated with an 8 percent increase in fatalities.
The fatality rate on other roads rose 4 percent with raised speed limits, the study said.
In all, the study linked increased speed limits across the country with 33,000 deaths from 1993 to 2013.
Mark Segerstrom, road safety project coordinator with the Nebraska Safety Council, said fatality rates in 2017 were up 3.2 percent over those in 2016.
"Now doesn't seem the time to be increasing speed limits," Segerstrom said. "Once speed limits are raised, drivers will continue to drive faster than the new limit."
Crashes resulting from distracted drivers have continued to rise for six straight years, up 29 percent from 2010, Segerstrom added. Other fatalities resulting from motorcycle, ATV, train, pedestrian and bikes were also dramatically up over previous year counts, he said.
"More work needs to be addressed at correcting the current problem we have," Segerstrom added. "This problem of elevated fatalities only intensify with a higher speed limit."
Murante said when the data is presented, "it will be a clear and convincing case to the people of Nebraska this is the right thing to do."
"I'm firmly convinced the roads will be safe and we'll be able to see some economic growth," he said.
SIOUX CITY | The full implementation remains hazy, but the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday officially asked a judge to allow weapons on the floors of the Woodbury County Courthouse that don’t have court functions.
The supervisors voted 3-1-1 to send the letter, which will change the dynamic of how courthouse security is handled in the courthouse.
"It is reasonable," said Supervisor Jeremy Taylor, who joined Matthew Ung and Keith Radig in voting affirmatively to send the letter.
Supervisor Marty Pottebaum voted against the measure, and Rocky De Witt abstained, because he is a county worker among the several who handle security screening under the direction of Sheriff Dave Drew.
Sheriff's office Maj. Todd Wieck said there will be unknown "significant" costs to try to keep the building secure, due to people potentially with guns moving on various floors.
A supervisory order by the Iowa Supreme Court in December enables individual counties to seek to allow weapons in public areas of floors of a courthouse that are not totally occupied by the court system. According to the order by Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, judges shall approve the requests.
The letter to Judge Duane Hoffmeyer, who is the chief judge of the Iowa Third Judicial District, requests that weapons be allowed on five of the eight floors, excepting floors 2, 3 and 4, which have court functions.
Whether guns would be allowed in the Woodbury County Courthouse has been a contentious issue since the gun law passed in the spring of 2017.
The new law, among other things, broadens the state’s so-called stand-your-ground provision, so a law-abiding citizen does not have a duty to retreat in a public place before using deadly force when confronted with danger to life or property.
In a release to the Journal, the Iowa Firearms Coalition applauded the supervisors' action. The IFC has announced it would "lead the charge to give private citizens the right to sue local governments that violate Iowa’s firearms preemption law."
Implementing a new reality of having guns on some floors in the Woodbury County Courthouse could be complicated. People use elevators to pass floors once above second floor, and some of those floors will be areas where guns can be taken and other floors will still have the weapon prohibition.
Pottebaum asked what would prevent a person with a gun permit from entering the courthouse with a gun, saying they were going to an upper level department, then coming back down to a courtroom on the second floor.
Wieck said he could not discuss some security specifics. He added that Drew will draft a security proposal, then discuss needs with the Woodbury County Security Committee.
De Witt on Monday said the county courthouse "is a difficult building to secure."
County Auditor Pat Gill spoke against the change, sharing that three people from the public "in very colorful language" on Tuesday voiced opposition. Gill said county employees have felt much safer since courthouse security began in 2014.
The short, two-sentence letter to Hoffmeyer says, "Please eliminate the weapons prohibition in the public area of the Woodbury County Courthouse, upholding the ban for floors 2, 3, and 4, which are considered Court controlled areas."
Cady issued the latest supervisory order last month, to update his weapons prohibition order of June 2017.
Cady's new order says the other elements of the June order remain, but after consultation with chief judges, sheriffs and other county officials, there can be a way for weapons to be taken in floors without court system elements.
"Upon written request of a county board of supervisors, or other controlling entity, the chief judge shall modify the weapons prohibition imposed by the supervisory order by eliminating the prohibition in public areas on those floors of a courthouse not totally occupied by the court system," Cady wrote.
Once a chief judge grants the modification, Cady wrote, "the court relinquishes to the requesting entity any authority over the regulation of weapons in the public areas on a floor of a courthouse not totally occupied by the court system."
The Woodbury County Courthouse added security technology and personnel for the first time in late 2014. At that time, the former entrances to the building were limited to one door on the north side of the building, and a security station with a metal detector for people to walk through was added.
Currently, people who enter the courthouse with a weapon can place it in a lock box. After handling their county business, then people get the weapons back by use of a key, on exiting the courthouse.
In late June, a majority of the supervisors voted to rescind a prior ban on weapons on county property, including the Woodbury County Courthouse. The supervisors said that was necessary to comply with the new state law expanding gun rights. However, Drew said he would keep enforcing the security program in the courthouse, saying he must enforce judicial branch orders.
SIOUX CITY | Winning in his second try in less than two years for the Iowa House District 6 seat, Jacob Bossman will join the Iowa Legislature for essentially a one-year term.
Bossman, a Republican from Sioux City, defeated Rita DeJong, the Democratic candidate from Sioux City. The vote total reported after the close of polls at 9 p.m. Tuesday was 2,152 for Bossman and 1,712 for DeJong.
"I think it was just the hard work of myself and the campaign. I didn't take anything for granted and was out working this morning," Bossman said of his victory on Tuesday night, 20 minutes after polls closed.
The special election was the first test of the state's new voter ID law. Woodbury County poll workers were trained on the new photo-ID requirement and were well versed for implementing it, said Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill.
Besides requiring ID and signature verification at the polls, the law also ended straight-party voting and shortened the period for early voting from 40 to 29 days.
With the Bossman win, Republicans moved to hold 59 of 100 seats in Iowa House. They also control the Iowa Senate, now two weeks into the legislative session that will run for 100 days to late April.
House District 6, which covers Sioux City, Sergeant Bluff, Bronson and Salix, leans favorably for Republicans. There are 7,778 voters registered as Republicans, 5,013 as Democrats and 6,617 as no party, according to election data as of Jan. 1.
"The Republicans turned out," Bossman said.
Bossman, 37, is regional director for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Bossman during the campaign said he would support "sound budgeting practices and hold the line on reckless spending," as a way to avoid tapping emergency state budget funds during a tight financial year. Bossman also pointed to the need for a "simple, fair tax code that will make our economy more competitive with neighboring states."
DeJong , 64, is a retired educator from the Sioux City Community School District. It was her first run for elective office. DeJong campaigned on the need to increase spending on education and to boost ways to access affordable healthcare.
Bossman said his understanding is that final election results will be certified by the Secretary of State's Office on Monday, and he could be sworn in as soon as Jan. 23.
Bossman lost a bid for Iowa House District 6 in 2016, losing the Republican Party primary to Jim Carlin. After one year in the Iowa House, Carlin shifted to the state's other chamber, winning an open Senate District 3 seat in a Dec. 12 special election. The outcome set up the need for another quick special election with the Legislature entering its second week of the new session.