Married by Phone: Marine Widow to Get Legal Status After Congress Acts

Hotaru Ferschke allowed to immigrate to U.S. after rare act of Congress.

ByABC News
December 16, 2010, 11:31 AM

Dec. 16, 2010— -- When Hotaru Nakama and Marine Sgt. Michael Ferschke tied the knot in July 2008, they weren't even on the same continent.

Nakama was in Okinawa, Japan, where the couple met and spent 13 months together, and Ferschke was in Iraq on deployment with his unit. Thousands of miles apart, the couple read their vows over the phone and signed affidavits simultaneously.

Then, one month after their proxy wedding, Ferschke was killed while on patrol north of Baghdad. And Hotaru, who was pregnant with their child, applied to move to the U.S. to join her husband's family and raise her child.

For the past two years, the U.S. government has repeatedly denied the widow's applications for legal residency, under an unusual provision in immigration law designed to prevent citizenship by marriage fraud.

But Congress took the highly unusual step Wednesday of rectifying the case, passing a private law in Ferschke's name to grant her a special exemption and pathway to legal residency in the U.S. The bill now awaits President Obama's signature.

"We're thrilled," Mike Ferschke, the father-in-law of Hotaru, told ABC News. "She'll be coming home for Christmas, and we can't wait to see her and Mikey."

Ferschke described the years-long ordeal as an "injustice" to a military widow, and slap in the face to a family who lost their son.