Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Legislator to push for changes in nationality law

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwanese-American George Laverne Jennings, left, holds up his passport at a press conference yesterday. Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim, right, helped him secure a residency permit after his application for Taiwanese nationality had been turned down.

PHOTO: LIAO CHEN-HUI, TAIPEI TIMES

In order to allow certain individuals born before 1982 gain Taiwanese citizenship, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) yesterday said she would push for changes in the Nationality Law (國籍法).

Revisions made in 2000 to Article 2 of the law allowed children with one Taiwanese and one foreign parent to obtain Republic of China citizenship, but the revisions only covered people who were children at the time, meaning that the revisions offered nothing to people born before 1982.

Hsiao, who herself is the product of a cross-cultural marriage, said that her wish to revise the law is inspired by the case of George Laverne Jennings, a 28-year old man who, despite having a Taiwanese mother and having lived in Taiwan most of his life, has not been able to obtain Taiwanese citizenship.

Jennings -- or "Little Black," as he is affectionately known to his Taiwanese friends -- is the child of an African-American father and a Taiwanese woman.

He has lived in Taiwan for 19 years and speaks fluent Taiwanese and Chinese. Because his father was American and because he himself was an adult before the law was revised in 2000, Jennings cannot claim Taiwanese citizenship.

Jennings has US citizenship, but is in limbo regarding his status in Taiwan. He does not have a national identity card because he and his mother neglected to fill out forms regarding his stay in the country when he was in high school. Without an identity card, he has been unable to hold a regular job.

At the time that Jennings came to Hsiao's attention, Jennings had overstayed by eight years his legally-sanctioned stay in Taiwan and was facing deportation.

Thanks to the help of local politicians including Hsiao, Jennings has been given an exemption and will be able to stay in Taiwan.

Returning from a brief trip from Hong Kong yesterday, Jennings said that he would begin taking language classes at Feng-chia University.

"I am already a Taiwanese," Jennings said.

"As long as I can get a national identity card, I am even willing to do military service," he said.

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