N.J. senator comes to the rescue of WTC widow

Faced with the possibility of being kicked out of the United States, Filipina World Trade Center widow Tessie Molina-Forsythe and her two children have found an ally in New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine, who has come to their rescue after learning of their deportable status.

The wealthy businessman-turned-politician helped the Forsythes stay in the country legally by getting their visas extended until Sept. 30, 2003 and helping to settle legal matters, particularly their immigration status and compensation due them as a result of September 11th.

“Although we’re still nervous about the uncertainty of our future, Sen. Corzine gave us some security that we won’t just be deported,” Forsythe, a Spanish citizen who is a native of Iriga City, the Philippines, said in an interview with the Filipino Reporter.

As a result of their alliance, Corzine is now using the Forsythes as a principal case in his bill (S. 1774) before the U.S. Senate. The bill would help spouses and children of H-1B and other highly skilled temporary workers killed in the September 11th attacks remain in the United States indefinitely as naturalized, American citizens.

“We were told we have the worst sample case among September 11th families,” Forsythe pointed out. She said even Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.) have offered to help her.

Forsythe’s husband, Christopher, a British citizen, came to the United States on a temporary work visa in 2000 to work as a foreign exchange money broker at Cantor Fitgerald. He obtained an H-1B visa while the rest of his family received H-4 visas, making their lawful status dependent on him.

Tessie and her children were all Spanish citizens and lived for many years in Mexico and Spain. Bent on making the United States their home, they sold all their properties in Spain before moving to Basking Ridge, N.J. The family spoke Spanish at home. “My husband’s dream was to send our children to the best universities in America,” Forsythe told the Reporter. “For the two of us, he wanted us to retire in Florida.”

But Christopher perished in the September 11th attacks three months before Cantor Fitzgerald was to renew his contract with a significant salary increase and a promise of green cards for the entire family. Not a single body part was recovered from the WTC rubble.

Christopher left behind Jose, now 18, and Kirsten, 16. Tessie is not Kirsten’s biological mother, but she is seeking to adopt the girl because Kirsten’s birth mother has had extensive mental health problems and has no contact with Kirsten, according to Corzine’s office.

At present, Tessie and her children are living off September 11th funds. The family, however, has yet to receive the major Victims’ Compensation Fund from the federal government.

“Up to now, my son couldn’t get a driver’s license because of our status here,” she said. “He couldn’t even go to a university, despite the September 11th scholarship for children of WTC victims.”

Nonetheless, she said her son was given a special scholarship by the Raritan Community College, where he is a freshman. “When Raritan learned that my son’s father died in the World Trade Center, they established a scholarship fund for September 11th families,” Forsythe said. “I’m very thankful to them.”

Forsythe has also found a support group in Basking Ridge composed of 70 WTC widows. “I’m the only Filipino and Asian in the group and they are very supportive and helpful,” she said.

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