The Presidential Office yesterday displayed a letter from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) that it said proved President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) voided his status as a permanent US resident by renouncing his “green card,” but critics pointed out that the statement was inconsistent with Ma’s previous claims that since his green card had “expired, it was invalidated automatically.”
Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) called a news conference yesterday to show the letter from Joseph Donovan, managing director of the AIT’s Washington office, addressed to Taiwanese Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) and dated May 14.
“We have previously been informed that President Ma Ying-jeou’s abandonment of his former legal permanent resident status has long been included in appropriate US immigration system records. This issue is therefore closed,” the letter said.
Lee said the letter showed that the president lost his permanent US residency a long time ago “and this is the only truth.”
Lee expressed appreciation to Washington for “speedily clearing up [the allegation]” made by Next Magazine on Wednesday that Ma is subject to the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and must pay taxes to the US government.
Lee said Shen was instructed by the government to negotiate with Washington to address the “fabrications” the magazine made “with malicious intent.”
The green card issue has haunted Ma since the 2008 presidential election and has seen him widely criticized for failing to show that he filed an Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status application, or Form I-407, to prove his claims that the resident status he obtained while studying in the US in 1977 was no longer valid.
In the past, Ma and his staff have said that the president’s green card became invalid a long time ago because he used a non-immigrant visa when he entered the US and has since then used a non-immigrant visa when he visits the country.
The Presidential Office yesterday again failed to present the form proving that Ma has, as required by US law, renounced his status in writing to US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Speaking to the Taipei Times later yesterday, AIT spokesperson Mark Zimmer said it was the Taiwanese government’s decision to share the letter, not the US’.
Zimmer said he was unaware as to when Washington was informed that Ma had abandoned his permanent resident status.
Next Magazine reported that the US Internal Revenue Service’s Beijing office told the publication that green card holders have permanent residency status and are therefore required to pay US taxes on worldwide income except in the following cases: if they voluntarily renounce their status in writing to the USCIS; if the green card holder’s immigrant status is administratively terminated by the USCIS; or if the individual’s immigrant status is judicially terminated by a US federal court.
Separately yesterday, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said that while the Presidential Office was trying to quell the controversy with the letter, Ma’s integrity was the key issue in the dispute.
“While the document released by the Presidential Office today showed that Ma has lost his residency status in the US, many questions remain unanswered,” DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said.
Former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), who broke the residency story while campaigning as the DPP’s candidate in the 2008 presidential election, said the letter seems to hint that Ma took action to abandon his residency status after March 2008, which would mean he lied in the campaign when he said his green card was automatically voided.
“I call on Ma to clarify when he renounced his residency. Taiwanese have the right to know,” he added.
Additional reporting by Chris Wang
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