On Aug. 2, 1790, a year after the inauguration of the first US president, George Washington, the US held a census under the general direction of then-US secretary of state Thomas Jefferson. It was the first US population count, and the census now takes place every 10 years. There have been 22 federal US censuses.
Taiwanese-Americans started immigrating to the US as early as the 1950s and have been arriving steadily ever since. However, nobody knows — not even the US Census Bureau — how many Taiwanese-Americans there are in the US. Estimates range from 250,000 to 1 million.
Why is this number unknown? It is due to international political considerations and restrictions the US imposed on itself.
The Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) is a non-profit organization that — among other activities — promotes the welfare of Taiwanese-Americans. FAPA, together with other Taiwanese-American organizations, is petitioning the census bureau to include a check box for “Taiwanese” under the race question on the next US census in 2020.
FAPA has been campaigning for such a check box since 1997. In 1998, then-FAPA president Chen Wen-yen (陳文彥) appeared as a witness at a meeting of the Subcommittee on the Census to testify on the matter.
Chen stated: “In the 1990 census, about 80,000 respondents identified themselves as Taiwanese under the race question. One hundred and ninety-three thousand marked Taiwanese as their ancestry. This discrepancy is caused by the fact that on the 1990 census form, Taiwanese was not listed as a separate category under the race question, while it was explicitly listed as an example under the ancestry question.”
In a 1997 memorandum, the US Department of State informed the census bureau that the “listing of Taiwanese as a race in a census questionnaire would inevitably raise sensitive political questions … contrary to the US government policy and US national interest.”
FAPA believes that the constitutionally mandated US Census is and must be a purely internal US affair, and should not fall victim to international politics and/or pressure.
In 2010, a write-in campaign was taken up instructing Taiwanese-Americans to write “Taiwanese” under the race question.
Nevertheless, the 2010 census demonstrated large discrepancies in the count of Taiwanese-Americans between US federal agencies. According to the 2010 census, there were 230,382 Taiwanese-Americans, while the 2014 Homeland Security data on Lawful Permanent Residents showed that the Taiwanese-American population in 2010 was 450,673.
Add this huge discrepancy in the count of Taiwanese-Americans to international political interference and Taiwanese-American indignation is understandable.
In 1994 the US House of Representatives and the US Senate passed legislation enabling Taiwanese-Americans to list “Taiwan” as their place of birth on their US passports, instead of “China.” Since then, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service — and since 2003 the US Citizenship and Immigration Services — have maintained separate quotas for Taiwanese-Americans and Chinese-Americans. If one federal agency can do it, why not the census bureau?
It is high time that the census bureau lifted this self-imposed restriction and included a Taiwanese check box on the census form in 2020. The US Congress is set to convene a census subcommittee next year. So the time for Taiwanese-Americans to speak out is now.
There is a need for accurate data on how many Taiwanese-Americans there are today.
We want to be counted!
Peter Chen is president of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has a good reason to avoid a split vote against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in next month’s presidential election. It has been here before and last time things did not go well. Taiwan had its second direct presidential election in 2000 and the nation’s first ever transition of political power, with the KMT in opposition for the first time. Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was ushered in with less than 40 percent of the vote, only marginally ahead of James Soong (宋楚瑜), the candidate of the then-newly formed People First Party (PFP), who got almost 37
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) has called on his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) counterpart, William Lai (賴清德), to abandon his party’s Taiwanese independence platform. Hou’s remarks follow an article published in the Nov. 30 issue of Foreign Affairs by three US-China relations academics: Bonnie Glaser, Jessica Chen Weiss and Thomas Christensen. They suggested that the US emphasize opposition to any unilateral changes in the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, and that if Lai wins the election, he should consider freezing the Taiwanese independence clause. The concept of de jure independence was first
Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Thursday reiterated that he is “deep-green at heart” and that he would mostly continue President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) national defense and foreign policies if elected. However, he was still seriously considering forming a “blue-white” electoral alliance with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) less than a month ago, telling students he “hates the KMT, but loathes the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) even more,” while constantly criticizing Tsai’s foreign policy these past few years. Many critics have said that Ko’s latest remarks were aimed at attracting green-leaning swing voters, as recent polls
Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor and India’s Ministry of External Affairs have confirmed that the two countries plan to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) this month on recruiting Indians to work in Taiwan. While this marks another step in deepening ties between the two nations, it has also stirred debate, as misunderstandings and disinformation about the plan abound. Taiwan is grappling with a shortage of workers due to a low birthrate and a society that is projected to turn super-aged by 2025. Official statistics show that Taiwan has a labor shortfall of at least 60,000 to 80,000, which is expected