Saturday, October 18, 2008

No way to treat a Marine widow

Let me introduce you to Michael and Hotaru Ferschke.

Hotaru, 24, who works on Kadena Air Base, met Michael, 22, a radio operator with the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, at a friend’s party on Camp Schwab in March 2007. She said he asked her out that night, but she was wary about dating an American, concerned that cultural differences would be too much of a barrier.

But he was persistent, Hotaru said during an interview Wednesday in her parents’ home in Ginoza, near the base.

“We discussed the different environments and cultures we grew up with and the difficulties we may face,” she said. “After a good talk, we both were convinced that we would be able to overcome any differences.”

Their first date was a drive to the aquarium at Expo Park in nearby Nago. They found they liked each other’s company.

“But we didn’t have as much time together as we wanted because he was busy with training and a trip back to the States to attend a wedding,” she said.

By December they both knew there was a future together, and she spent Christmas with Ferschke at his home in Maryville, Tenn.{Stars and Stripes}

Like Michael Ferschke, I met my wife Leonita while serving in the military. I was in the Navy and stationed at Subic Bay Naval Base in the late 1980’s, Michael met Hotaru while stationed he was stationed on Okinawa. Leonita and I remain married 19 years later.

As you can tell from the title of this post, there was no happy ending for Michael and Hotaru.

She found out she was pregnant in mid-May and the couple decided to process the paperwork needed to be wed.

“He called the baby a miracle,” she said. “He said he would ask his boss to start the process immediately. I thought it would be almost impossible, being so far away from each other.”

But Michael told her to look inside a suitcase he left with her.

“There was a file inside the suitcase with all necessary documents for marriage,” she said. “He had already signed a marriage registration, and there was a copy of his passport among other documents.”

They were married by proxy on July 10.

“It could have been done earlier, but I was putting off working on the process because I was suffering from bad morning sickness,” she said. “But he hurried me, saying that he wanted to make sure everything was done before he went out for a scheduled mission.”

The last she heard from her new husband was on July 31.

“He called me shortly before he was leaving,” she said. “I e-mailed him an ultrasound of our baby. He was so excited.”

On Aug. 11, Hotaru had unexpected visitors to her office in the Kadena Ammunition Storage Area. A first sergeant, a captain, a chaplain, an interpreter and one of her husband’s close friends arrived with the news that her husband was dead.

“At first, I could not believe what was being said,” Hotaru said, brushing a lock of hair from her teary eyes. “But when I saw our friend crying, it brought me back to reality.”

“I felt lightheaded and vomited in the bathroom,” she said.

Hotaru is lucky she didn’t go into pre-term labor or lose the baby. She then travelled to Tennessee for her husband’s funeral. Hotaru, shortly after returning to Japan, came to an important decision.

“Before flying back for the funeral, I was totally at a loss, not knowing what to do in the future,” Hotaru said. “But my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude to all the people who offered us such warm support. The funeral service was attended by so many people.

“I want our son to know how much his father was loved by so many people,” she said. “I realized that it was best to raise him in the environment where his father grew up, so that he would feel his father’s presence and be proud of him.”

She said she told the Ferschkes of her plan and they were bowled over by her decision.

Hotaru decided she wants to have Michael Ferschke III aka Mikey in the United States. Think she would have no problem getting a visa? Think again.

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The phone call devastated Robin Ferschke, the mother of a Marine killed in Iraq.Michael+Ferschke.jpg

Her Okinawan daughter-in-law, six months pregnant with the couple’s child, tearfully called earlier this week and said she was having problems getting a residency visa to live in the United States.

“She was crying so hard, it was hard to understand what she was saying,” Robin said in a telephone interview Thursday from her home in Maryville, Tenn. “She said she was told she could not get a visa because of something called the two-year rule.”{Stars and Stripes}

The two-year applies to spouses who come to the United States as a result of a marriage to a legal resident alien or US citizen. If the marriage isn’t five years long at the time of the petition, the immigrant spouse is considered a conditional resident alien. After two years, the couple applies for the conditional status to be removed.

Leonita and I went through this. She entered the US in December 1989, in December 1991 we filed the I-751 petition to have become permanent in the US. It was approved in less than a year. On January 25, 1994 Leonita became a US citizen.

What happens to spouses whose US citizen spouse dies. There’s a trap they fall into, called ‘The Widow Penalty‘. It dates back to a 1970 administrative ruling. Immigration no longer treats the spouse as the relative of a US citizen, because the petitioner has died. The usual result is the surviving widow is deported, even if they have children born in the US as result of their marriage.

Attorneys for Immigration recently argued in court that this is necessary to prevent sham marriages. However immigration blanketly begins deportation proceedings in all instances of legal immigrants who fall into The Widow Penalty trap.

Back to Hotaru

Hotaru has declined any interviews concerning the visa problem.

“This was all so unexpected, it made her very nervous,” Robin (Ferschke) said. “She’s still grieving for Michael and worried about the baby and doesn’t want to talk to anyone.

“Michael’s unit has rallied around her and is keeping the press away while they are trying to get everything ironed out. They are protecting her, taking her to places she needs to go and collecting the right information.”

“The Marine Corps on Okinawa is working very closely with Mrs. Hota Ferschke and the U.S. Consulate in Okinawa to assist Mrs. Ferschke in the Visa application process,” 1st Lt. Judd Wilson, media relations officer for Marine Corps Bases Japan, said in an e-mail response to a Stripes query.

“Mrs. Ferschke has not been denied any visa to the United States,” he said. “This is a misunderstanding.”

Added Wilson: “Marines take care of their own, and Mrs. Ferschke and her child are a part of the Marine Corps family,”

Hotaru was quite fortunate to have the Marine Corps, her mother-in-law, plus three members of Congress willing to fight for her. If not, a widow of a Marine would have been railroaded.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate on Okinawa said Hotaru had an appointment there Thursday afternoon.

“After we check out her application, we will try to help her in whatever way we can,” said Fuji Takayasu, a public affairs assistant for the consulate.

“There is a two-year rule,” she acknowledged. “But if she cannot meet that qualification, there should be a way to get her visa. There are other ways of doing things.”

Why does the US government employ ignorant people to make life altering decisions? Didn’t anyone on Okinawa know of the 2003 Armed Forces Naturalization Act? Which in part reads-





16 “(i) IN GENERAL.–The benefits
17 under this paragraph shall apply only to a
18 surviving spouse, child, or parent of a per-
19 son who, while a citizen of the United
20 States, died on or after September 11,
21 2001, during a period of honorable service
22 in the Armed Forces as a result of injury
23 or disease incurred in or aggravated by
24 such service.

·HR 1954 RS
1 “(ii) DETERMINATIONS.–The execu-
2 tive department under which the citizen so
3 served shall determine whether the citizen
4 satisfied the requirements of clause (i).
5 “(B) SPOUSES.–Notwithstanding the sec-
6 ond sentence of subsection (b)(2)(A)(i), a per-
7 son who is a surviving spouse described in sub-
8 paragraph (A), and who was living in marital
9 union with the citizen described in such sub-
10 paragraph at the time of death, shall be consid-
11 ered, for purposes of subsection (b), to remain
12 an immediate relative after the date of the citi-
13 zen’s death, but only until the date on which
14 the surviving spouse remarries.

In a private email, Brent Renison of Surviving Spouses Against Deportation confirmed to me that the above law applies to Hotaru. He says “Embassy people don’t know all the rules sometimes”. I think there is no excuse for the despicable way Hotaru Ferschke was treated by US consulate officials. Fire them, for they don’t know US immigration law.

The people fighting for Hotaru won the war.

MARYVILLE - Hotaru Ferschke, the 24-year-old Japanese widow of a U.S. Marine sergeant killed in Iraq, has been granted a temporary visa to come to America and have her baby.ferschke.jpg
The granting of the visa was announced today by the Washington office of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., which had been working closely with the family of Sgt. Michael Ferschke to get permission for Hotaru Ferschke to come back to the U.S. to have her baby, as the sergeant had wished.

The Ferschke saga has touched the residents of Blount and surrounding counties deeply ever since it was announced that he had been shot to death while on a door-to-door search in Iraq Aug. 10.

There was an outpouring of sympathy and grief when the death was announced and an avalanche of outrage when Hotaru’s plight was revealed in published reports this week.

Robin Ferschke, mother of the dead Marine, says Hotaru is “sweet and shy” and will be treated “just like a daughter” when she comes to Maryville.{Knoxville News-Sentinel}

Anyone think Hotaru looks like a Japanese version of Liv Tyler?

Hotaru has decided to give birth in Japan and come to the United States afterwards. In the meantime, Robin Ferschke is turning her son’s room into a nursery for Michael Ferschke III.

Citizens in the US, with some justification, are up in arms about illegal immigrants. Most of these same people, don’t know how to tell legal from illegal immigrants. That goes the same for the US government employees.

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