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Kulongoski pardons Kari Rein

A Williams resident originally from Norway faces deportation because of a 1993 pot bust, but the governor has wiped that off the books

WILLIAMS ' A woman facing deportation by the federal government to her native Norway because of a 1993 marijuana conviction in Oregon has been pardoned by Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

Kari Rein, 42, received word she had been pardoned Monday afternoon.

It's wonderful ' I'm very, very happy, she said. We hope this pardon will allow me to stay in this country.

We hope the immigration judge will take this pardon into consideration.

She is scheduled to make her case Thursday before a U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement judge in Portland that her conviction 11 years ago does not merit losing her right to live in the United States. She also is seeking a permanent pardon from the immigration judge.

— The pardon came after the governor's legal staff investigated the case. The governor also met with Rein and her husband, James Jungwirth, last week in Salem.

When considering pardons, they look at a bunch of factors, explained Mary Ellen Glynn, spokeswoman for the governor.

For instance, there was no objection to the pardon request from the Josephine County district attorney's office, which prosecuted the original case, she said.

In this case, Kari Rein met all the qualifications, Glynn said. She has expressed remorse. She was no threat to public safety. She has been a model citizen prior to this event and since that time.

Both Rein and her husband were convicted in the case involving the possession of six marijuana plants.

It was the first and only time either had been charged with a crime. They were each given three years of probation, required to perform 240 hours of community service and they paid a &

36;1,200 fine.

The couple, who say growing the illegal plants was a mistake, thought it was all behind them until they and their two children were returning from a Christmas vacation in Norway on Dec. 30. Rein was arrested by customs officials at Sea-Tac airport near Seattle after a computer check flagged her immigration green card.

Under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, immigrants arrested for minor drug offenses, even those that occurred before Congress passed the law, can be deported, according to federal officials. Airport security began running green cards through the law enforcement database after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

She was jailed for several days until her husband was allowed to post bail.

The couple have hired an attorney and now have a &

36;26,000 legal bill, although fund-raisers by friends and supporters have raised more than &

36;4,000 in her behalf. Many also signed petitions or sent personal letters, citing Rein for her work over the years to help the local community and school.

I know the governor does not take granting a pardon lightly, Rein said after learning of the pardon. I know he is taking a personal risk every time he grants a pardon. I'm deeply grateful he is willing to do this on my behalf, and do what he felt was right.

For myself and my family, I want to say 'Thank you, governor' for giving me a second chance.

If the case is dropped by the federal government or she is issued a pardon from the immigration judge, Rein said she wants to pursue a goal she has hoped to achieve since she came to the United States nearly 20 years ago.

I would like to become a U.S. citizen, she said. I got in trouble before I could apply. I hope that with a pardon I can do that.

Her husband and children are all native-born citizens, the latter having been born in Josephine County. The family has lived in Williams for 16 years.

The couple own and operate Naturespirit Herbs, a mail-order business harvesting native herbs as well as edible and medicinal seaweeds.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at