The Japanese widow of a slain Marine and new mother to the couple’s 2-week-old son faces another speed bump in seeking U.S. residency after the government denied her petition, saying the marriage wasn’t legal, her husband’s family said.

U.S. immigration officials said since the marriage by proxy between Hotaru Ferschke, 24, and Sgt. Michael H. Ferschke Jr., 22, was never consummated, it was never official, the Marine’s mother, Robin Ferschke, said Friday.

Hotaru Ferschke’s application was denied in November, stalling her plans to raise the child in Tennessee, her mother-in-law said.

"How could they? It wasn’t by choice," said Robin Ferschke from her home in Maryville, Tenn. "It’s unbelievable."

Michael Ferschke, a team leader with the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, had been in the Middle East about a month when the couple learned in May that Hotaru was pregnant.

The couple were married by proxy July 10 during Michael Ferschke’s deployment in Iraq.

One month later, Michael Ferschke was killed during door-to-door searches in a town north of Baghdad.

The couple’s son, Michael "Mickey" H. Ferschke III, was born Jan. 7 at a Japanese clinic near Kadena Air Base.

Repeated phone calls to Hotaru Ferschke were not returned Friday.

Proxy marriages are common for active-duty military members who are deployed and unable to be present.

Immigration experts say that, typically, marriage to a U.S. citizen is considered the fastest way to obtain a green card or permanent residency.

Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, marriage by proxy must be consummated to be recognized for immigration purposes, said Kevin O’Connor, a consular officer at the U.S. Consulate in Naha.

Approval for such visas and green cards is granted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, he said.

O’Connor said Friday he could not comment on the case, but he acknowledged the consulate is assisting Hotaru Ferschke.

"Her case is a very unique case. Everything is being done to afford Mrs. Ferschke all the benefits under the law," he said. "She does know all the benefits she has received and will be receiving."

Robin Ferschke said she is determined to carry out the couple’s wish to build a life for Mickey in Maryville.

The rejection is the second snag in Hotaru Ferschke’s efforts to reside in the U.S. In September, she was denied a temporary visa after immigration officials said the couple had not been married long enough to meet the criteria for a residency visa.

A 1986 law designed to prevent sham marriages requires foreigners be married to a U.S. citizen for two years before they can acquire the visa.

The "two-year rule," however, does not apply to active-duty military, O’Connor said.

The visa was granted in October and will allow Hotaru Ferschke and her infant son to temporarily enter the States. Mickey has U.S. birthright citizenship since his father was an American. Robin Ferschke said they are completing the process to obtain the baby’s passport and complete his citizenship status.

Robin Ferschke said the family is pursuing other avenues to help her daughter-in-law gain permanent status.

She has reached out to Tennessee Republicans Rep. John Duncan and Sen. Lamar Alexander to introduce legislation to legalize the proxy marriage, and recognize proxy marriages under unique circumstances.

In the meantime, Robin Ferschke said, she is preparing to greet her grandson for the first time. She and her husband, Michael, will arrive on Okinawa on Valentine’s Day — a fitting time for her to reunite with Hotaru Ferschke and finally hold Mickey instead of watching him smile from a webcam, she said.

"I just want to reach through that monitor and hold him," she said. "He’s absolutely beautiful, and she’s such a wonderful mommy."

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