Tue, Sep 03, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Legislation needed for immigrant affairs

By Wang Gwo-jyh 王國治

According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, the number of foreigners and foreign spouses — including from China, Hong Kong and Macau — who have applied for naturalization or acquired residence certificates was 548,952 as of June, while “new immigrants,” who have more than 350,000 children account for 2 percent of the population and are the fifth-largest group in Taiwan.

According to other ministry data, as of July there were 569,008 Aborigines. While Aborigines’ rights are protected by dozens of laws, including the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民族基本法), there is not a single special law for immigrants, except for articles scattered throughout the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法) and other laws. An immigrants’ basic act and an economic immigration bill are pending legislative review.

There are several things that should be done to help solve immigrant issues:

First, the Executive Yuan’s New Immigrants’ Affairs Coordination Committee should be upgraded to a new immigrants’ council — a tier-two agency — to deal with immigrant affairs as a specialized entity.

Second, the New Immigrants’ Development Fund should be transformed into a legally stipulated budget for the mooted council. An immigrants’ affairs budget should be compiled by the council, as it would have a legislatively stipulated budget, rather than being a special fund affected by shrinking government contributions.

Third, the Nationality Act (國籍法) should be amended to protect the residency rights of non-Taiwanese and unregistered babies born in the nation. From 2007 to the end of June, the National Immigration Agency received 754 birth reports of non-Taiwanese babies born to foreign migrant workers who had gone missing from their registered employment or to people using false identities.

However, the unofficial number of children without nationality or household registration — which means they cannot enroll at schools or use National Health Insurance resources — is nearly 20,000.

The government should expand the naturalization scope, which is primarily based on jus sanguinis — citizenship based on parentage — and secondarily on jus soli — citizenship based on birthplace — by amending Article 2 of the Nationality Act, so that a person can be adopted or apply for naturalization if they were born in the Republic of China, but the identity of one or both of the parents cannot be confirmed, or if the parents were stateless.

Fourth, the government should grant equal rights to foreign and Chinese spouses, as these legally separate groups do not have equal identity rights. The Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), in particular, should be amended to delete the quota on Chinese spouses and reduce the requirement for permanent residency applications from six years to four.

Fifth, the government should scrap the requirement that a Taiwanese child born in China must be included in household registrations in Taiwan within one year of their birth. An amendment by the Executive Yuan last year sets different standards for children born in China to a Taiwanese-Chinese couple and children born elsewhere outside Taiwan to a Taiwanese and a non-Taiwanese. The regulations regarding China should be revoked.

Opening up residency rights for immigrants and their children would help offset the falling birthrate and would show tolerance to cultural diversity. It would give Taiwan a new image in the age of localization and globalization, a goal worthy of a cohesive public effort.

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