January 26, 2011

A New Home for Wife of ‘The Mayor’

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For once, Bear Necessities Food Service Worker Lane Yon did not need to translate for his wife, Kim Por, who arrived in Ithaca Tuesday after a long struggle with immigration.

Por was asked whether she might tire of living with the hyperactive Yon. Yon turned apprehensively towards his wife, who is seven months pregnant.

Por, who scarcely spoke a word of English, understood this question. While all other questions required translation, this one did not.

“No, no,” she said, shaking her head while reaching out to touch Yon’s hand. “I love.”

Yon, nicknamed “The Mayor” of Bear Necessities by his coworkers, said his life has dramatically changed for the better since Por arrived.

“Oh my God, I love it,” Yon said. “[When I] get up she’s there … When I get out of work, she’ll be there. If I have distress in my life she’ll be there to support.”

Initially, the American embassy in Cambodia had viewed Yon’s marriage with Por as “a scam” and refused to let her into the country. In its view, the two were “only married because of his green card,” according to Yon. The embassy ultimately reversed its decision on Sept. 10, and she finally arrived this week.

Prof. Stephen Yale-Loehr ’77, law, an immigration professor, who also practices immigration law at an Ithaca firm, told The Sun in early September that getting one’s real wife through the immigration service’s stringent criteria “often is a problem.”

Yon said his story showed that “you have to work hard.”

“Just never give up. Believe in yourself and your relationship … A lot of stuff is going to be in your way in life,” but you have to overcome your obstacles, Yon said.

“Now I can start saving up, invest … start my family,” Yon said. He added that he was “really excited” for the birth of his son, who the pair have decided to name Kevin, in America.

Through Yon’s translation, Por said she was “really excited and happy” when she found out she had been accepted to come to the U.S.

When landing in New York, Por, who had never seen snow before, was surprised by the snow-covered city.

Por wants to learn English and attend Tompkins County Community College, Yon said. He added that Por, whose parents own a hotel in Cambodia, is hoping to eventually study hotel management at Cornell.

Yon said he hopes to save enough money to open a restaurant in the model of Bear Necessities in Por’s parents’ hotel.

“I just want to say thanks from the bottom of my heart,” Yon said. He speculated that someone at Cornell read The Sun’s Sept. 2 profile of Yon’s struggles and used his or her influence to get Por through her immigration hurdles, as Por won visa application one week after the story’s publication.

Yon and Por were all smiles in Bear Necessities Wednesday, but Yon said the story had not quite reached its ending.

“If she likes my southwest chicken sandwich with extra chipotle … that’ll be the happy ending,” Yon said with a laugh.

Original Author: Jeff Stein