By Kristin M. Hall
The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — A Marine’s widow who has been fighting immigration law to remain in the United States to raise their 1-year-old child has returned to Japan with no clear resolution in sight.
Sgt. Michael Ferschke married Hotaru Nakama by phone in 2008 while he was stationed in Iraq and she was in Japan. He died in combat a month later, but a 1950s immigration rule says the couple’s marriage was not consummated — even though she was pregnant with their child.
Hotaru Ferschke and her 1-year-old son, Mikey, had been staying with her in-laws in Tennessee for the past year after her permanent visa application was denied. Robin Ferschke, Michael’s mother, said on Jan. 11 that her daughter-in-law and grandson left the United States on Jan. 4 so that Hotaru could return to her job in Okinawa, although she could have stayed longer on her temporary visa.
The family was hoping a private bill to allow her permanent residency would pass Congress before she had to go home, but the measure hasn’t made much progress because of the holiday break.
“She has to think of the future of her child and there’s no definite answer,” Ferschke said by phone from her home. “We were just dreading this day.”
Hotaru and Michael Ferschke had a proxy marriage, which has a long history in the military in cases where the bride and groom can’t be in the same place for a ceremony.
While a number of immigration laws passed in the 1940s made it easier for brides of American military members to immigrate, a consummation requirement was passed in 1952 for proxy weddings that was designed to curb marriage fraud.
The U.S. military recognizes proxy marriages for couples separated by war, and the Marines are paying survivor benefits to Ferschke and her baby. However, the Department of Homeland Security, for immigration purposes, will not recognize the marriage.
The family celebrated Mikey’s first birthday early and he was sent home with toys and pictures of the father he never met, a 22-year-old Marine radio operator who met his soon-to-be wife while he was stationed in Okinawa.
Robin Ferschke said the house where her grandson spent most of his first year is now quiet without him. She said her daughter-in-law is planning to make short visits to the United States with her child over the next year, but she’s afraid Mikey will forget his family in America.
“It’s like losing a part of my son,” Ferschke said. “He was my sunshine every day.” ♦