Foreign spouses, accompanied by rights advocates, yesterday called on the National Immigration Agency (NIA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to lend a helping hand as they face separation from their children after their visas expire, despite having custody of the children.
“I will be very sad and worried if I have to be separated from my daughter and go back to Vietnam, I can’t imagine how it would be if I cannot look after my child,” an immigrant mother from Vietnam, nicknamed Hsiao Liou (小六), said at a news conference held at the Legislative Yuan. “Please help us.”
Liou, whose Taiwanese husband died, has been raising her 10-year-old daughter, nicknamed Hsiao Ting (小婷), by herself. However, when she went to the NIA to extend her residency, she realized that her sister-in-law had custody of Ting.
Although Hsiao Liou eventually regained custody of her daughter, she still has to leave the country as her residency has expired.
“Ting has lost her father and the government is making her lose her mother,” Taiwan International Family Association spokeswoman Lee Tan-feng (李丹鳳) told the news conference.
She said Hsiao Liou is not the only immigrant mother who has had to return to her native country after the death of a husband or a divorce.
A foreign spouse from the Philippines, nicknamed Hsiao Lin (小琳), also faces the same problem after a divorce and has to return to her country of origin by Monday.
“How ironic it is that Hsiao Lin is to be separated from her daughter on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said. “It’s actually just a question of red tape that can be solved through administrative measures.”
She called on the MOFA and the NIA to extend Hsiao Liou and Hsiao Lin’s residency, “because they are mothers of Taiwanese children, and their custody of the children was granted by a court.”
“Is a court ruling worthless?” Tien asked.
Both NIA Deputy Director-General Ho Jung-tsun (何榮村) and a MOFA visa section official Ko Hsiao-tsung (柯孝宗) vowed to help.
“We would ask immigration officers to visit these two families in person and address their problems,” Ho said. “Of course, what’s more important is to revise the law to automatically grant residency to immigrant mothers with legal custody of Taiwanese children — actually we have already sent our law amendment proposals to the Legislative Yuan. I ask the legislature to give it an expedited review.”
Ko said that the ministry would extend the two mother’s visas, while the NIA would take care of the residency issue.