An Irish immigrant and her family living in Salt Lake City lost a husband and father in 1986 and now face the uncertainty of being deported to their homeland because of bureaucratic circumstances beyond their control.

While a Utah congressman has introduced legislation to block their pending deportation, Kathleen Bardole is shaken by the prospects of being forced from her Utah home on the basis of what she calls overly rigid federal law."I'm totally dismayed by what is happening to me. It's like a nightmare. I only hope that some morning I'll wake up and it will be over," Bardole said.

Bardole came to the United States after a 1976 separation from her Irish husband to marry Salt Lake chiropractor Frank Bardole. She and her daughters began a new life with a husband and father they deeply loved, she said.

But their lives took a tragic turn when Bardole returned from a job interview in November 1986 to find her daughters gone, put into state custody by a court order sought by her estranged husband.

Bardole rushed to her husband's office and told him the news. Shocked and bewildered, he phoned an attorney and then collapsed, dead of a massive coronary.

The Bardoles had not been married the mandatory three years that would have enabled Kathleen Bardole to retain permanent U.S. citizenship.

To make matters worse, 10 days after her husband's death, a private Salt Lake agency bungled her immigration application, ending any immediate hopes of gaining U.S. residency.

Bardole, who was "loathe" to speak to the press - "I'm a very private person" - would not identify the agency, saying, "I don't think it would be fair because they were decent enough to admit it."

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service says Bardole must "voluntarily depart" the country or face deportation proceedings before a federal judge.

"Mrs. Bardole has elected the latter," said Meryl Rogers, officer in charge at the Salt Lake INS office.

"I've never faced so much bureaucracy before; now I know how it feels to fall through the cracks," Bardole said.

Bardole has hired an attorney to sort through the paperwork involved in fighting her departure, and Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, offered to intercede, sponsoring a bill to stop the deportation.

Owens, who introduced the bill earlier this month, hopes his measure will work, an aide said.

"There are thousands of these (immigration problems), and the House generally deals with less than 100 of them every year," said Owens press aide Art Kingdom.

"Despite that, Wayne is optimistic there will be favorable action on it," he said. The bill now awaits review in the House Judiciary Committee.

And Bardole is also hoping that something will be done to prevent her family's departure before July 1.

To leave, Bardole said, would unearth the roots her family has grown and painfully tear the bonds she formed with her husband, who died from "improper state action" when her children were taken from her custody.

"I feel I would be throwing away everything my husband has given me. I feel like I'd be walking out on him," she said, adding that her two daughters, who requested anonymity, are accustomed to their schools and happy in Salt Lake City.

"I really can't imagine that in a place like the United States that a rule would be so rigidly enforced," she said.

But Rogers said the INS is left with few alternatives if Owen's bill fails and a judge rules to deport the Bardoles.

"I have no choice but to carry out the laws for which I am sworn to uphold," he said. "Sometimes cases of humanitarian appeal end up with that result."

The INS has handled the Bardole case gently, Rogers said, extending the family every sympathetic gesture possible. The office hasn't taken Bardole into custody and has not scheduled an early hearing for the family, he noted.

"Other than that, we have just about exhausted our opportunities to be sympathetic," he said.