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House passes bill to ease immigration for military couple

An interesting, albeit limited, bill passed the House yesterday to change part of immigration law to recognize proxy marriages involving military service members in immigration proceedings. The bill, which was passed by a voice vote, was created to help one woman: the Japanese widow of a Marine who died in Iraq, Navy Times reports.

The couple was married by proxy while Michael H. Ferschke Jr., a sergeant in the Marines, was overseas. Ferschke died in combat about a month later, and his wife, Hota, now wants to move to the United States to raise their son, whom they found they were expecting shortly before Ferschke deployed. But the Department of Homeland Security does not recognize their marriage to allow her to move to the country: The marriage is considered invalid under current immigration law because it was never consummated.

The law likely only impacts a small number of marriages, but for those it would help, it could ease the migration process considerably. The bill does not take away the consummation requirement to consider a marriage legitimate for immigration rights, but creates an exception “in cases where the failure to consummate the marriage is caused by a physical separation due to active-duty military service aboard by one of the parties,” Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) told Navy Times.

The bill will next move to the Senate, where bill sponsor Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) hopes it will pass before the end of the year.

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