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Another casualty of the terror war

It's difficult to understand how Kari Rein poses a threat to anyone

Read today's story of Williams resident Kari Rein, and this question is almost unavoidable: Don't immigration officials have something better to do?

Rein was convicted in 1993 of growing six marijuana plants at her home. A judge ruled she and her husband grew the plants for personal use and ordered probation and community service. Putting Rein in jail, he said, wouldn't serve anyone.

But the federal government disagrees, a fact that has become all too clear to Rein, a native Norwegian. Last month, customs officials arrested her as she returned to the United States from vacationing in Norway. The United States plans to deport her because of the old drug charges.

Marijuana is a drug, and growing it is illegal in Oregon. Rein shouldn't have done what she did.

But how deeply should she have to pay for something that would, for most of us, be a regrettable but ancient piece of history?

Today, Rein and her husband, James Jungwirth, have a business and two children, 14 and 7. Jungwirth and the children are U.S. citizens. The family has had no other run-ins with the law.

— All that, of course, has gotten them nowhere with a government obsessed with potential threats to U.S. security and, more to the point, foreigners.

The marijuana conviction is an aggravated felony and, under a 1996 law that carries new weight under the arrival of Homeland Security, a deportable offense.

When Rein and her family arrived in Seattle on Dec. 30 and her conviction popped up on a computer, our protectors moved in. Rein was interviewed, shackled and hauled off to jail, where she remained until her release on bail Wednesday. A deportation hearing is set next month.

A law's a law, of course, but it's a huge leap to imagine Rein's continued presence here poses a threat of any kind.

It's harder yet to understand how someone like her ' like any of us, basically, except that she was born outside the country ' could be worth the time and money the government has spent on this case.

Now that Rein's home, she and Jungwirth say they are considering asking Gov. Ted Kulongoski to pardon Rein's crime. If he agrees, Rein's record will be clear and she presumably will be free of the deportation plan.

Otherwise, Rein and her family will face separation or a move across the world, another casualty of the government's war on terrorism.