DERRY, N.H. — The family of a highly decorated U.S. Navy Seal veteran who died of cancer two months before his wedding is fighting the deportation of his Thai fiancee, the mother of his 11-year-old daughter.
Tim Farrell served 21 years for his country before moving to Thailand in 1998. There, he met Bao, and in 2004, the couple welcomed their daughter, Thawan.
Tim, a North Andover native, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in June, and, by August, he had bought a house and moved his family to Derry, New Hampshire, so that Thawan could continue the education she started at a prestigious English-language school in Thailand. Tim had always planned to move his daughter to the United States for school, but hastened his plans as he became sick.
Tim died on Dec. 26, two months before he and Bao were to marry and get Bao a green card. Now Bao's visiting visa has expired and she has filed for an extension through August, as Tim's siblings reach out to attorneys and politicians in the hope of securing her a green card.
Thawan is a U.S. citizen and can stay in the country, but, at just 11 years old, the fifth-grader needs her mom.
"It's been really hard without my dad, and my mom is here for me. So that's why I really want her to stay with me," Thawan said, through tears. "I want to ask them, 'Why she can't stay here with me?"
But attorneys and the offices of elected officials have told the family the situation is bleak and there may be no avoiding deportation.
"I literally was standing by his bed when he died, and I told him, 'I'll make sure your family stays here,'" said Tim's sister Janice Moro, who started an online petition to help her sister-in-law stay in the country. "I can't expect that anyone would want to separate mom and daughter."
Immigration attorney Randall Drew, whose office is in Bedford, New Hampshire, told FOX25's Christine McCarthy that the family's situation is dire, but there are some possible options.
"It's a pretty tough spot to be in," Drew said. "What needs to happen is the government needs to execute some prosecutorial discretion and allow her to stay, grant her something called deferred action or perhaps humanitarian parole."
That outcome is rare, Drew said, but the family's situation is extreme.
Another possibility, Drew said, is to apply for a green card through a common-law marriage after death.
"There is a section in the New Hampshire law that states, if you've lived together as a married couple and held yourself out as such for the past three years or more and one of the partners dies, under that limited set of circumstances, the person can be recognized as the spouse of the deceased," Drew said.
If Bao qualifies as a common-law spouse, she would then need to self-petition for her green card as the spouse of a service member. That, in conjunction with proof that Tim's time in the service might have contributed to his illness or aggravated it, could help her.
Drew recommended the family reach out to elected officials and appeal for help, while also working with both an immigration attorney and a family law attorney.
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