Several civic groups yesterday criticized the Ministry of the Interior’s proposed amendments to the Nationality Act (國籍法), saying they failed to make any progressive changes to the existing law, which they say violates the human rights of immigrants.
The alliance — consisting of the Taiwan International Family Association (TIFA) and the TransAsia Sisters Association, Taiwan (TASAT) and others — called for amendments that would respect the rights of immigrants. The group criticized the amendments proposed by the ministry and urged the legislature to adopt the alliance’s proposed amendments.
One of the requirements a foreign national must meet to become a naturalized Republic of China citizen under the Nationality Act is for them to “behave decently and have no record of crime.”
Photo: Su Fang-ho, Taipei Times
The ministry has proposed revising “crime” to “criminal record,” a move that the alliance called an exercise in semantics.
“Minor offenses that are not prosecuted, granted a deferred prosecution or have sentences that can be commuted to fines and community service should be excluded from the restrictions,” it said.
The more controversial aspect of the article is that immigrants are required to “behave decently.”
The ministry’s proposed amendments would give it the power to define what acts constitute “indecency.”
Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Chiu E-ling (邱伊翎) said the legislature should get rid of such ambiguous legal terms.
Chen Yi (陳逸), the director of the Awakening Foundation’s volunteer and empowering programs, said that “decent behavior” is not a legal term and would provide too much discretionary power to the relevant authorities.
“What is more, Taiwanese society has a gender-biased view when it comes to the conditions to be met for achieving so-called ‘decency.’ For example, on sexual behavior and marital and family obligations, women are generally judged with a different standard from that used for men. Upholding this restriction is tantamount to threatening immigrants with punishment for failing to fall in line with sexual fidelity and morality,” Chen added.
The new proposal would not see an amendment to the articles stipulating that naturalization could be “withdrawn” if the person is found “not conforming to the provisions of this Act within five years” and that the restriction that naturalized foreign nationals have no right to hold government offices could be lifted only after 10 years of naturalization.
“Aren’t we citizens after getting the national identification card? However, the fact is that naturalization does not bring us equal rights,” an immigrant said.
The only improvement made by the ministry’s proposal is the change to the regulation that requires immigrants to relinquish their previous nationality before applying for naturalization, the groups said.
“However, the revision still requires the applicant to provide a certificate proving they have given up their previous nationality within one year of naturalization, which is rather fast, as the process of nationality-renunciation can take up to three years in some countries,” TIFA office director Lee Tan-feng (李丹鳳) said.
TIFA member Chiu Hao-ting (邱皓庭) said the negotiation on the amendments among party caucuses, which is not open to public, should not compromise new immigrants’ rights.
He called the current regulations a tool for executing “[social] class and sexual control.”
“Many Taiwanese have dual nationalities, so why is it so hard for immigrants to become Taiwanese? And while our legislators can go to [a motel to commit adultery], immigrants are not allowed to work in a hostess club to feed their families for the sake of ‘decency,’” he said.
The cross-caucus negotiations yesterday failed to take place with the absence of Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers, whose call to drop the terms requiring “decency” was opposed by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), who said the removal of those terms would go against the nation’s traditional values and ethics.
Wu, ironically, is the lawmaker that Chiu referred to when making the remark about legislators embroiled in adultery scandals.
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