Photo: Hotaru and Michael Ferschke
Two Japanese citizens were granted U.S. legal status after Congress passed two separate (and rare) private immigration bills.
When private bills are granted, it is usually to give relief to specific individuals or companies when all other options have been exhausted. Private bills are used in immigration, taxation, medical affairs, and Armed services cases decorations. During each session of Congress, hundreds of private bills are introduced, but most go no where, and many more don’t even get that far, as getting a member of Congress to even introduce one can be difficult. A private immigration bill had not been passed since the 208th Congress in the 2003-2004 session.
Hotaru Nakama Ferschke’s private bill, one of the two passed, grants her legal status after her husband and father of her son, Marine Sgt. Michael Ferschke died in Iraq in 2008. They were married over the phone while he was still overseas, but he never made it home. Since their marriage was never consummated, under immigration law, their marriage is not valid despite Hotaru being pregnant with the Marine’s child at the time of the telephone vows. Now, the Marine’s mother is hoping the her daughter-in-law’s case opens the door for the passing of more private bills.
The other private bill was that of 28-year-old Shigeru Yamada, who came to the U.S. on a visa with his mother when he was ten. Three years later, mother was killed in a car accident. Yamado went to live with his aunt in Chulas Vista, California, but was never legally adopted. He finished high school and went to community college. In 2004, while riding a bus to downtown San Diego, he was arrested by U.S. Immigration agents. Upon hearing his bill now only awaits President Obama’s signature, Yamado said, “For me to finally become, or have the potential to become a permanent resident, it means a great deal to me, it really does. I can’t really express how happy I am.”
Director of advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association Gregory Chen believes Republican lawmakers have been hesitant to pass private bills lately because they believe immigration should be addressed by means on policy, and not on an individual basis.
The passing of both Chen and Ferschke’s bill’s now make them eligible for permanent resident status once they’ve filed an application.