The Daily Times: Senate passes Ferschke bill

Posted on December 6, 2010

Robin Ferschke has the passion, drive and endless perseverance that may only be found in a mother who has lost a child and is fighting in his honor.

Determined to live by the rules she taught her late son, Robin Ferschke refuses to let what is left of her family fall apart.

“I know Michael would not want me to quit,” she said of her son, Sgt. Michael Ferschke Jr., who died in combat in 2008. “I taught him that if you start something, you never quit. So, it means a lot to me.”

Robin Ferschke is fighting to get a bill passed that would allow her daughter-in-law, Hotaru Ferschke and grandson, Mikey, to have permanent residence in the United States.

Hotaru Nakama married Sgt. Michael Ferschke by phone in 2008 while he was stationed in Iraq and she was in Japan.

He died in combat a month later, but under a 1950s immigration law, immigration authorities say the couple’s marriage was not consummated though she was already pregnant with their child.

The U.S. Senate Friday passed a bill to grant Hotaru Ferschke permanent residency in the United States.

The bill now has to go to the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., introduced the bill last year along with Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Jim Webb, R-W.Va., and Mark Udall, D-Colo.

“The very least the country Michael Ferschke died serving can do is honor Michael’s last wish — that his wife be allowed to raise their son near their family in Tennessee,” Alexander said in a prepared statement. “I am pleased that the Senate passed this bill and I urge the House to pass it quickly, so that the Ferschke family can be reunited.”

Ferschke’s father, Michael, said Friday night that he felt “great” about the progress, but that he and his wife can’t celebrate until they know Hotaru and Mikey will be coming home.

“It’s been real tough,” he said. “We’ve gone through a lot. We can’t really heal (after losing our son, until this is over).”

When Robin Ferschke got the news Friday afternoon that she and her husband were one step closer to bringing Hotaru and Mikey home, she said she was speechless.

“It looks pretty positive, more positive then it has in a long time,” she said. “I’m afraid for it to feel too good. From past experiences, how can I say there is not a possibility of it not happening?”

‘Now it can happen’

If the House passes the bill, then Hotaru can start the process of getting a green card.

“It won’t happen overnight, but at least now it can happen,” Robin Ferschke said.

The family has been overwhelmed by support from local residents, people across the country and lawmakers.

After taking care of her own situation, Robin Ferschke is also hoping to get the law changed, so no family has to go through the situation she has been enduring for two years.

The fight hasn’t been easy, and it doesn’t get easier with time, she said.

“Every day you think of your child,” she said. “Then, when you have the fight, you have to bring up that day (he died), what happened to your child. You have to bring up his dreams that he planned that are not going to happen and bring up these horrible memories over and over and over. It kills you inside.”

But she hopes her family’s fight will make it easier for others. She also hopes her family’s battle is inspiring others to fight for what they believe in.

“I hope (others) can see this and (know) if you truly believe in something, you do whatever it takes to make it right,” she said. “You don’t give up.”