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Civic duty may bring deportation

Carolina Murry voted. There was just one problem. She wasn't a U.S. citizen

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2001

JACKSONVILLE -- Carolina Murry thought she was as American as apple pie.

The daughter of a former U.S. Army soldier and a Dominican mother, she came to the United States when she was 3.

She grew up in Conway, Ark., developed a Southern drawl, and considered herself American.

She said her father, who still lives in Arkansas, told her he filled out some papers when they entered the country and was told that was all he needed to do.

Now, the 34-year-old medical company worker faces deportation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Why? Because she voted when she believed she was a citizen.

"I'm in shock," she said Thursday. "I always thought I was a citizen."

A federal court hearing scheduled for Thursday was postponed until Wednesday to give government attorneys more time to investigate her case, but Murry's attorney hopes to see it dismissed.

"We are in discussion with the government to have it resolved," Craig Williams said.

Jim Klindt, deputy managing assistant U.S. attorney, said the government is reviewing the case.

"We will take into consideration the information supplied by the INS and by Ms. Murry though her attorney before deciding whether to pursue it," Klindt said.

Murry learned three years ago that she wasn't a citizen when she applied for a passport to visit her mother's family in the Dominican Republic.

She took immediate steps to become a citizen. She filled out an application, took a test and was interviewed by an INS officer.

During that interview, she was asked if she had ever voted.

"I without hesitation said yes," she said.

In January, the INS told her that her citizenship bid was denied. She also was told she would be deported because she committed a crime by registering to vote.

"Murry took an oath in which she claimed to be a citizen of the United States" when she registered to vote, says an affidavit signed by INS Special Agent Christopher Doyle. "At that time, Murry was a lawful permanent resident and if she had answered truthfully, she would not have been eligible to vote."

Murry's defense will be that since she didn't know she wasn't a citizen, she falls under a law passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in October. It says that if an alien permanently lived in the United States before age 16 and reasonably believed herself to be a citizen, the government could not use the fact that she voted as evidence of not having good moral character.

Murry also wrote last month to U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, who initiated a congressional inquiry into the matter.

"We have not received an official response," said Liam Lynch, a spokesman for Crenshaw.

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