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The Japanese widow and baby of an Okinawa Marine killed in Iraq were given new support this week in their struggle for American residency.

A bill was introduced Tuesday in the U.S. Senate to allow Hotaru Ferschke and the son of Sgt. Michael H. Ferschke Jr. to remain with the Marine’s family in the United States, according to the office of the sponsor, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.

Congress is now considering at least two bills that could block the U.S. government from deporting the mother and child in January.

Ferschke says it was her husband’s wish that the child be raised as an American, but the State Department refuses to recognize the couple’s July 2008 marriage because it was never consummated.

Michael Ferschke, 22, a team leader of the Okinawa-based 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, married his wife by telephone during a deployment to Iraq and was killed a month later while conducting house-to-house searches.

His wife and son moved from Okinawa in February to live with Ferschke’s family in Maryville, Tenn., but without recognition of a legal marriage, they face deportation when their one-year visa expires.

The marriage is illegitimate according to the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which requires consummation between U.S. citizens and foreign national spouses to prevent fraud.

A move by Congress might be needed to allow Ferschke to stay in the U.S.

The bill introduced Tuesday upholds "the promises we make to those who step forward and place their lives on the line in order to carry out the policies that we create," Webb said in a prepared statement posted online by his office.

Tennessee Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander Bob Corker have signed on to support the bill, Webb’s office said.

The family’s plight has caught the attention of lawmakers in both parties, but it is uncertain whether Congress will support the effort.

A similar bill was recently introduced by Tennessee Rep. John Duncan Jr., a Republican, and might not be voted on before Hotaru’s visa expires, the Ferschke family said.

The legislation will have no effect on broader immigration policies, according to Webb’s office. Instead, it will recognize the Ferschkes’ "lawful marriage" and "right a wrong for a Marine’s family who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country."


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