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Non-citizen won't face voting charge

A Jacksonville woman, who was threatened with deportation, wants to stay and become a citizen.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2001

JACKSONVILLE -- Carolina Murry no longer faces prosecution for voting illegally in the mistaken belief that she was a U.S. citizen.

The 34-year-old woman won a round with the U.S. government Tuesday when it dropped a charge against her.

Murry has been in danger of being deported to her native Dominican Republic -- a place she hasn't seen since the age of 3 -- ever since the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service decided to get tough with her for "untruthfully" claiming to be a citizen when she registered to vote.

"I am very, very happy," Murry said Tuesday. "I hope this doesn't ever happen to anyone else."

U.S. Magistrate Timothy Corrigan signed an order dropping the illegal voting charge against Murry, who voted in the 1992 and 1996 presidential races.

Corrigan's action came on the recommendation of Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Klindt, who said an investigation showed "there was no willful violation of federal law" by Murry.

"The process can and does work," Klindt said. "It did in this case."

It wasn't until 1998, when she applied for a passport, that Murry learned she was not a citizen as she had believed for more than three decades.

Her father, a U.S. Army soldier who married Carolina's mother and moved them to Arkansas when she was 3, remembers signing papers and thought there was nothing more he needed to do to make his children citizens.

Murry's attorney, Craig Williams, said he will ask the INS to grant Murry her citizenship papers and stop its deportation proceedings. Now that the voting charge has been dropped, he said, there are no grounds for sending her back to the Dominican Republic.

"I have faith in the justice system and faith in the Lord God," Murry said. "I pray that eventually I will become a citizen."

When she learned she was not a citizen, Murry filled out an application, took a test and was interviewed by an INS officer.

During the 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 was being 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, said 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."

Williams said a federal law signed in October by President Clinton applies to Murry. It says that in any case where an alien voted who permanently lived in the United States before age 16 and reasonably believed he or she was a citizen, the government could not use the fact that the person voted as evidence of not having good moral character.

Murry's older sister, Juana Sellers of Conway, Ark., has also filed papers to become a citizen.

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