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A Small Request: How Senator Inouye Helped a Young Couple

December 30, 2012 - Ray Tsuchiyama

There are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of stories throughout Hawai’i and other places, about people whose lives were touched in some way by the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye.

This is one small story, told to me by a little bird: many years ago a couple met in Waikiki, the young man (A.) who was a U.S. citizen and the young woman (M.) who was a Japanese citizen. They had a whirlwind romance of barely six months and decided to be married at a beautiful old cathedral near downtown Honolulu.

Since M. was not a U.S. citizen, A. filed a “fiancé” petition with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service – a special visa that allows would-be brides or grooms to enter the U.S. to marry a U.S. citizen (of course, there are many, many such petitions filed daily on behalf of non-U.S. citizens living everywhere from Moscow to Mexico City to Sydney to Bangkok to Cairo – each one half of a happy loving couple – in other words, you can’t get married by yourself).

Across the Pacific Ocean the fiancé dutifully entered all sorts of information on the numerous petition pages (addresses of all homes that she had resided in, her schools, her work experience, the names of her parents, her grandparents, siblings), completed a health check-up (including for TB and an AIDS test), and even visited the Japanese National Police headquarters in Tokyo to receive stamped documents certifying that she had never spent time in prison nor was a yakuza or member of the Japanese Mafia.

While working in Honolulu, A., the young man waited. And the fiancé waited patiently, back in Tokyo. Optimistically, they scheduled a wedding date, ordered wedding invitation cards (and mailed them out), and booked a banquet room at a nice Waikiki. A. carefully reviewed the dinner menu with his fiancé and received approvals via expensive international calls, and the fiancé’s parents (and relatives and friends) reserved airline tickets and hotel rooms.

Soon, the wedding date was nearing, and there was no action on the fiancé petition and M. was distressed during the expensive trans-ocean phone calls. Frantic, the young man asked friends what to do – one older friend called Senator Inouye’s office and explained the situation, pointing out that A. was a respectable hard-working U.S. citizen who had never been arrested for any crime and had paid all taxes due on time and the young Japanese woman was an individual with no intention of entering marriage with a U.S. citizen fraudulently for a green card. Afterwards, the older friend told A. to call the Senator’s office and ask for a certain aide. When the young man called, the aide who answered the phone said immediately: “Oh, is this a fiancé petition?”

Relieved, A. poured out his story – the petition, the health-check, the criminal background review – all had been done, but the last U.S. Consulate interview appointment for his beloved fiancé had yet to occur – and the wedding date was fast-approaching and everything was in place for the reception, the food, the invited guests RSVPs, even the honeymoon hotel reservations. The Senator’s aide listened, then asked for the fiancé’s phone number in Tokyo, and said he will look at the situation and confer with the Senator. A. hung up the phone with a heavy heart.

One day later the A. received an urgent call from his fiancé. M. said that she was startled to receive a call from the U.S. Consulate section at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. The consular officer asked M. by name, and invited her to come to the U.S. Embassy at her convenience, at any time. When she arrived at the U.S. Embassy, a consular officer took M. to his office and asked a few simple questions, then gave her documents with many official stamps that confirmed her fiancé petition had been approved for her to enter the United States to be married and receive conditional permanent resident status (later the “conditional” would be removed for full permanent resident status). As the consular officer was placing the papers into an envelope, the fiancé saw on the desk a facsimile cover sheet with the bold letters “Congressional Interest”, and Senator Daniel K. Inouye’s name.

In a happy ending to this story, the young woman departed on her Honolulu flight, the couple was married at the cathedral, and they had a wondrous Waikiki hotel reception with family and friends. Two years later, a healthy baby was born, and the couple would celebrate 25 years of marriage. Senator Inouye’s response to a “small request” had an impact of great enduring significance in the lives of two people, and this must be multiplied exponentially throughout the Hawaiian Islands among many families in many ways.


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