CEDAR FALLS — Glenna Munuswamy of Decorah and her relatives filled an entire row in the Old Central Ballroom at Maucker Union on the University of Northern Iowa campus Monday.
The group was anxiously awaiting the start of the U.S. Citizenship Naturalization Ceremony featuring Glenna’s husband, Mohith of India, one of 107 immigrants from 42 countries to become United States citizens.
Family members held signs made by one of Glenna’s aunts with sayings such as “Walk like an American,” “Way to go, Mo” and “Proud to be an American.”
“We’re here to cheer him on,” said another of Glenna’s aunts, Sue Lienau of Ossian. “We want to welcome him to our country. It’s been a long process for him.”
Mohith, 39, and Glenna, 35, who have a 13-month-old daughter, Arya, have been dealing with separations for years, as Mohith was required to return to India for a time each year.
“The paperwork to get to this point is pretty extensive,” Glenna said. “And confusing. My husband has me and he speaks English fluently, but I can’t imagine how others get through it.”
Glenna said the citizenship ceremony will give her a little bit of security.
“In the U.S. right now, you aren’t quite sure who is going to be accepted.”
Glenna said the day is bittersweet for her husband.
“He’s letting go of his home country a bit,” she said.
U.S. Judge C.J. Williams, chief magistrate, presided over the ceremony.
“This is the most enjoyable part of my job,” he said.
The ceremony included the singing of the national anthem, a roll call of the new citizens, taking the naturalization oath, the Pledge of Allegiance and messages from Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst, Rep. Rod Blum and President Donald Trump.
“I now pronounce you United States citizens,” Williams then said. “It is emotional for me. I know what you’ve done to get to this point in your life.”
Williams stressed not only the rights the new citizens have gained, but the responsibilities as well.
“You must pay taxes; you should vote every chance you are given; some of you may decided to run for public office; and you must obey the laws so I don’t see you in my courtroom.”
Williams then helped hand out certificates to the newly naturalized citizens and posed for pictures with them.
After receiving his certificate, Mohamed Khames of Sudan posed for pictures with his wife and three children.
He initially came to the United States with the United Nations 11 years ago, applied for his green card and worked to finish his education. He and his family moved to Iowa in 2011.
“It’s a quiet, nice area to live,” he said. “I advise others to come here.”
Mohamed said it was a relief to finally be an American citizen.
“I waited for it a long, long time,” he said.
“I do see a lot of opportunity here, a better life and situation for my family.”
Mark Grey, a professor in the department of sociology, anthropolgy and criminology at UNI, organized the first naturalization ceremony on campus about nine years ago.
“This is our seventh ceremony here,” he said. “This is the largest one in the state.”
Grey said coordinating the logistics of the event — which includes the district court, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Des Moines office, federal marshals and the UNI provost’s office, police and more — can be complicated, but he loves to do it.
“This is my favorite thing,” he said.
Following the ceremony, Grey could be seen taking photos for the new citizens on their cellphones.
“That comes with the territory,” he said, laughing.
WATERLOO — The family of a toddler who died in 2015 finally got to face the woman who operated the in-home day care where he perished.
“It’s a pain that never goes away. There’s no Band-Aids, there’s no wraps, there’s no conversations, there’s no hugs to help the hurt go away. June 17th haunts me, the day he died. December 11th causes me a pain in my heart, too much to acknowledge. That’s his birthday. He got one,” Shannon Harrelson, mother of Brody Harrelson, told Amy Hangartner.
On Monday, Hangartner, 43, of Waterloo, was sentenced to 90 days in a work release center and up to five years of probation after she entered Alford pleas — not admitting guilt but acknowledging she would likely be convicted at trial — to charges of felony neglect of a dependent person and misdemeanor child endangerment.
She had asked for a deferred judgment, which would have removed the felony from her record after probation, but Judge Kellyann Lekar declined, meaning the felony conviction will remain intact.
Brody was found unconscious in an undersized car seat where he was been placed to sleep at Hangartner’s Bertch Avenue home in June 2015. He was 18 months old.
“When your 90 days are up, you get to go home, look at your children and tell them that you love them. I would, without hesitation, spend 90 days anywhere to have one more moment to tell my wonderful little boy how much daddy loves him,” Michael Harrelson said.
Grandfather Tom Burroughs, a state representative in Kansas, in 2017 introduced a bill in that state’s legislature to require children in day care centers to sleep only on government approved surfaces and areas.
Hangartner apologized to the family, noting she, too, had lost a child when she gave birth to a baby without a heartbeat.
“Life is precious, and I realize that. I went to provide child care because I love children. I love people. I’m a caring person,” she said.
She disputed the account the car seat had been placed in a second-floor closet, a detail found in court records.
But she said Brody liked the seat, which didn’t belong to the Harrelsons.
“I placed that child in a car seat. He liked car seats. He climbed in them. He liked to sleep in them. He rocked himself back and forth in them,” Hangartner said. “It is not a closet. I wish people would understand that, and there were children all upstairs in that area so when they were sleeping they wouldn’t bother each other.”
She said after Brody was found unconscious, she attempted CPR.
Hangartner had originally been charged with the more serious offense of child endangerment causing death after a medical examiner ruled Brody died of mechanical or positional asphyxia from a car seat strap.
But a contributing factor the medical examiner found — myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart wall — cast doubt on the role of the car seat.
Defense attorney Ray Walton, who represented Hangartner, said two other doctors had reviewed the case and determined myocarditis was the real culprit.
“That could have been on the top line. It could have been the No. 1 cause of death. … The doctors both feel that the child could have died anywhere, including in his own home, from the myocarditis,” Walton said.
Walton noted of the two other recent Iowa cases involving children dying in car seats — without heart conditions — one was never charged and the other resulted in a deferred judgment.
Black Hawk County Attorney Brian Williams said the state didn’t contest the medical evidence, but said police investigators were initially told Brody had been in a pack and play, and not a car seat.
“The car seat had been removed from the closet and placed in the bedroom,” Williams said. He said there also was misdirection when police asked who placed him in the closet and who checked on him and when.
DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday she didn’t know of or witness inappropriate behavior during her two-decade friendship with a former state agency director she abruptly fired after learning of sexual harassment allegations.
The Republican governor said “absolutely not” when asked at a press conference of her knowledge of any inappropriate conduct by Dave Jamison, the ex-director of the Iowa Finance Authority. Reynolds fired Jamison on March 24, shortly after learning of allegations against him by two women, including one who said he made crude sexual comments to female subordinates and twice asked her into his hotel room during work trips.
Reynolds has ordered an independent investigation into the workplace culture at the IFA.
“This is an opportunity for us to go in with an outside review and make sure that we have the facts when we are looking at processes,” the governor said, noting Jamison “has been a friend of mine and of our family.”
Jamison has been a longtime political ally of Reynolds, dating back to when they both served as county treasurers. They ran in 2010 as part of the statewide GOP ticket, and Jamison was tapped to lead the IFA in 2011 after he unsuccessfully ran for state treasurer.
Reynolds has faced criticism over how she handled Jamison’s firing. The governor said she acted swiftly after she was told of credible allegations, but she waited more than a month to release more than basic information to the public.
She initially indicated she wouldn’t order an independent investigation, but she changed course Friday, after releasing a redacted letter from a woman offering graphic details about Jamison’s behavior. Reynolds has said she was trying to protect the privacy of the women involved.
The letter was released Thursday in response to open records requests from The Associated Press. Reynolds’ staff initially said it didn’t have documentation about the case, then backtracked days later by blaming an office error.
The letter alleges Jamison made sexual innuendos and remarks about his sexual history and female subordinates’ bodies. The woman who wrote the letter also said he twice pressured her to go into his hotel room during work trips.
The governor’s office said the letter is the only documentation it has about allegations against Jamison. Another woman contacted the governor’s office at the time the letter was submitted, but Reynolds on Monday declined to provide more information about those separate allegations.
“It’s really important when you’re changing the culture in state government, which I have said we are going to do, that if the victim requests confidentiality, that we honor that,” the governor said.
Jamison, 60, hasn’t spoken publicly about the allegations. He said in a text message Friday he was planning to do so “soon.”
Prominent white-collar attorney Mark Weinhardt will lead the investigation into Jamison’s conduct during his seven-year tenure as IFA director and what was known “about these matters and the appropriateness of the response to them.” The woman who wrote the letter alleges at least two male IFA employees were aware of some behavior.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office said Monday it wasn’t immediately clear how much the investigation might cost.
Reynolds also said new leadership at the IFA, which promotes home ownership and municipal infrastructure, will use a third-party auditing firm to look into the agency’s finances. That topic has been raised in recent days amid public questions over whether IFA’s plan to move to a new location is cost effective. Reynolds said agency officials have assured her it is.
Iowa Democrats said Monday in a letter to Reynolds the independent investigation must include a look into the agency’s finances.
“The fallout from the firing of David Jamison should be a wakeup call to you and other state leaders,” reads the letter. “There is a reckoning in our country on the issue of workplace harassment. You have a choice: Do something serious to address this problem in your Administration or be on the wrong side of history.”