WOMAN BECOMES CITIZEN AFTER DEPORTATION SCARE

Relates to:
Date: 2001-02-10

The Augusta Chronicle

Last year at this time, Mary Anne Gehris was facing possible deportation because she had pulled another woman's hair in 1988. On Friday, after a pardon from the state and national publicity about her plight, she was sworn in as an American citizen.

The 35-year-old Ms. Gehris, who was adopted from Germany as a toddler, was threatened with deportation after admitting on a citizenship application that she had been convicted of misdemeanor battery in the hair-pulling case.

Ms. Gehris, an administrative assistant who lives in Covington, Ga., was granted a pardon in March by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. That allowed her to finally raise her hand and take the oath of citizenship Friday morning at the Richard Russell Federal Building in Atlanta.

``I felt like a big burden was lifted off my shoulders because my battle is over,'' she said after taking the oath with 150 other people from more than 30 countries.

When she was 22, Ms. Gehris pulled another woman's hair during a spat over a boyfriend. She was sentenced to one year of probation and 60 hours of community service for simple battery. She completed her sentence in 1989.

She later married and had two children. In 1998, she decided to apply to become a U.S. citizen so she could vote, hold a government job and get scholarship money.

But after acknowledging on her application form that she had been convicted of a crime, she was notified by the Immigration and Naturalization Service that she could be deported under a 1996 law.

Congress adopted the law with the goal of kicking out immigrants convicted of crimes involving violence or drugs. But the law has led the federal government to deport hundreds of immigrants for committing petty crimes such as shoplifting. Augusta Chronicle, The (GA)

February 10, 2001

Edition: GEORGIA
Section: METRO
Page: C03

WOMAN BECOMES CITIZEN
AFTER DEPORTATION SCARE
Author: Associated Press

Dateline: ATLANTA

Article Text:

Last year at this time, Mary Anne Gehris was facing possible deportation because she had pulled another woman's hair in 1988. On Friday, after a pardon from the state and national publicity about her plight, she was sworn in as an American citizen.

The 35-year-old Ms. Gehris, who was adopted from Germany as a toddler, was threatened with deportation after admitting on a citizenship application that she had been convicted of misdemeanor battery in the hair-pulling case.

Ms. Gehris, an administrative assistant who lives in Covington, Ga., was granted a pardon in March by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. That allowed her to finally raise her hand and take the oath of citizenship Friday morning at the Richard Russell Federal Building in Atlanta.

``I felt like a big burden was lifted off my shoulders because my battle is over,'' she said after taking the oath with 150 other people from more than 30 countries.

When she was 22, Ms. Gehris pulled another woman's hair during a spat over a boyfriend. She was sentenced to one year of probation and 60 hours of community service for simple battery. She completed her sentence in 1989.

She later married and had two children. In 1998, she decided to apply to become a U.S. citizen so she could vote, hold a government job and get scholarship money.

But after acknowledging on her application form that she had been convicted of a crime, she was notified by the Immigration and Naturalization Service that she could be deported under a 1996 law.

Congress adopted the law with the goal of kicking out immigrants convicted of crimes involving violence or drugs. But the law has led the federal government to deport hundreds of immigrants for committing petty crimes such as shoplifting.

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