this is the new America. Our government wants
to deport an Oregon woman who was convicted 11
years ago of growing six marijuana plants.
Rein, a Norwegian citizen, had never been in trouble
before, and hadn't been in trouble since. That
changed Dec. 30.
her husband and two children were returning from
a vacation to Norway when she was questioned at
the Seattle-Tacoma Airport by officers of the
Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
had run Rein's name through a computer and found
the old marijuana conviction. They asked her to
step into a private room.
that," says her husband, James Jungwirth, "was
the last time we saw her for three weeks."
Rein was locked up, and deportation proceedings
were initiated. Her family was in shock.
is 42. She has lived here, legally, with a green
card, for 15 years. Her husband is a U.S. citizen,
and both children -- daughter Inka, 14, and son
Arek, 7 -- were born here.
and Jungwirth own a seaweed harvesting business
in the rural Oregon community of Williams, which
has rallied behind them. Tony Green of The Portland
Oregonian wrote about the case, and the newspaper
editorialized on Rein's behalf, calling her treatment
"cruel and wholly unnecessary." But because she's
a foreign national convicted of a drug offense
-- no matter how minor, no matter how long ago
-- she is retroactively eligible to be kicked
out of the country.
rules were toughened during the 1990s, but the
heavy crackdown has come in the wake of the Sept.
11 attacks. Not since World War II has the United
States launched such an ambitious and arbitrary
fine and community service
to combat terrorism, I certainly understand. But
this is ridiculous," says Rein's attorney, David
N. Shomloo, who was born in Iran and is now a
naturalized U.S. citizen.
first, Shomloo said, Rein was detained as a "trafficker,"
even though the sentencing judge in 1993 stated
that the marijuana plants were obviously for personal
and her husband called it "the biggest mistake
of their lives." The judge placed them on probation,
fined them $1,200 and ordered them to perform
240 hours of community service.
judge added: "I'm also satisfied that the two
of you are people who are capable of being productive
and are being productive in society, and I don't
think at this point that jail really serves any
benefit to anyone."
geniuses at the Department of Homeland Security
either didn't bother to read the court file, or
chose to ignore it. They decided Kari Rein was
three weeks, she was locked up until bail was
granted. "It was unbelievable," she says. "They
did not give out very much information. They tried
to avoid my questions."
home, her children "were very terrified," she
says, "especially the little one."
Rein finally was released, the town of Williams
staged a benefit concert and raised more than
$4,000 for her legal defense.
the public outcry, the government is ludicrously
pursuing its efforts to expel her. Officials insist
that the marijuana rap is "an aggravated felony,"
although a U.S. appellate court recently ruled
that personal possession of small amounts was
try not to be angry," Rein says. "What I feel
more is disappointment and sadness."
immigration judge will hear the case next month.
Even if he rules in Rein's favor, the government
may appeal. And even if she wins the appeal, it
may be summarily overruled by Attorney General
John Ashcroft, who has done wackier things.
and her family are bracing for a long fight. Oregon
Gov. Ted Kulongoski could pardon her for the marijuana
conviction, but there's still no guarantee that
the government would back off.
we lose," says Jungwirth, "we're going to have
to sell everything we own and move to Norway."
children have never lived anywhere but Oregon,
and Rein dreads the prospect of uprooting them.
"I hope it doesn't come to that," she says.
is a bizarre and harrowing time in the new America.
Our president defends Rush Limbaugh, a serial
narcotic scammer and pillhead, as "a great American."
the full might of law enforcement is aimed at
deporting someone whose only crime is keeping
half a dozen pot plants, more than a decade ago.
Perhaps if Rein had her own right-wing radio show,
the feds would leave her alone.
asked about the rigid new deportation and detention
policies, a spokesman for the Bureau of Citizenship
and Immigration Services told The New York Times:
"Everything we do is aimed at national security."
What a joke. How will our nation be safer if Kari
Rein is booted out? Doesn't the Department of
Homeland Security have anything more important
this is what passes for a war on terror, we're
in deep trouble.
knows her deportation case isn't typical -- a
white European who's lived here a long time. "We
went public because we thought we could help others,"
she says. "What's happening to me and my family
is what's happening to thousands of people. .
. . Most of these cases are nameless and faceless."
David Shomloo, "Unfortunately, there are many
Kari Reins out there."
think it couldn't happen to someone you know.
This is the new America.
Posted: April 8, 2004