SAN FRANCISCO – Last week, 73-year-old Zhenfu Ge lost her daughter to cancer. And because of the death, Ge also lost her legal right to stay in America.
If her daughter, Yanyu Wang, had survived until Thursday, Ge would have left her hearing before the Immigration and Naturalization Service as a permanent resident of the United States.
But her chances of staying legally in the United States died with her daughter, an American citizen who was sponsoring Ge’s green card application.
Ge now faces deportation to China, and separation from the grandchildren she promised a dying Wang she would help raise.
“It’s very hard for me to leave them here,” Ge said through an interpreter Thursday after an INS officer told her she has to leave the country. “This is something I cannot do.”
But the law clearly says Ge cannot stay, according to INS spokeswoman Sharon Rummery.
“Your heart goes out, you know,” she said. “It’s unfortunate, but it happens.”
Ge’s application appeared to be a sure thing.
“They even said that if my wife was alive, (Ge’s green card) would have been approved,” said John Mark, Wang’s husband, who lives with Ge and his two children in Sausalito. Because he is a son in law and not a blood relative, Mark cannot take over Ge’s green card application.
Since the spring of 1998, Ge has been in the San Francisco Bay area taking care of her 3-year-old granddaughter and 9-year-old grandson. That summer, Wang was naturalized as a U.S. citizen and immediately filed as a sponsor for her mother’s green card.
The INS set Thursday for Ge’s hearing to become a permanent resident. But then, on April 15, Wang succumbed to lymphoma.
Ge next will receive a letter asking her to leave the country. If she remains and the INS finds out, she will be face deportation.
Ge then could appeal the deportation order. But that only would postpone her departure temporarily, because immigration lawyers who have reviewed the case agree she has no legal grounds to stay.
Meanwhile, Mark is considering a lasting solution. He could appeal a deportation order, though a reversal is rare. He also has contacted federal lawmakers, asking them to shepherd through Congress legislation specifically allowing Ge to get a green card.
Meanwhile, Ge wonders how the loss of her daughter also could lead to separation from her grandchildren.
“I just don’t understand why it has to be so strict,” Ge said.