After some horrible experiences with the U.S. government, an Irish family in Salt Lake County received some kindness and sympathy from Congress Tuesday.

By voice vote, the House passed a bill of Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, to allow Kathleen Bardole and her two daughters to live permanently in the United States. It now goes to the Senate.Bardole and her children had earlier been ordered out of the country because of a bizarre set of circumstances that began when Catholic Relief Services failed to file their immigration forms as promised, a mistake the agency admits.

That became a problem when Bardole's American husband, Salt Lake chiropractor Frank Bardole, had a fatal heart attack. Because Kathleen Bardole technically had not filed for permanent residency when she was married to an American, she lost her legal right to remain in the United States.

Adding to the emotional trauma of the family was that the death and immigration problems hit after Kathleen Bardole's former husband in Ireland, James J. Farley, began a trans-Atlantic custody battle for their children - which in a way led to Frank Bardole's death.

Farley obtained an order to seize the children and place them in protective custody. When Kathleen Bardole arrived home and discovered the children gone and a note explaining their seizure, she rushed to her husband's office. When he read the note, he had a massive heart attack and died. Later Kathleen Bardole regained custody of her children.

The Immigration Service and Kathleen Bardole found her original immigration papers had not been filed when two weeks after her husband's death, she applied to amend her papers to report the death. When immigration found no papers had been filed, it ordered her to leave the country.

"I frankly cannot see the point in exercising the letter of the law at the expense of its spirit," Owens told a congressional committee recently. "Kathleen Bardole has suffered extreme hardship and what I strongly feel to be a miscarriage of justice."

Owens added, "Mrs. Bardole is a gifted teacher and her children talented students who have fully integrated into their community. She married an American citizen and demonstrated every intention to act responsibly and maintain the proper immigration status."