New Taiwan President Unfamiliar With U.S. Green Card laws
“The election outcome reflected the mainstream will of the public,”Ma told a cheerful crowd at his campaign headquarters in Taipei at 7:30pm.“The people want change. They want a clean government. They want political stability, economic prosperity, and cross-strait peace.”
Taipei – Taiwan’s opposition front-runner, Ma Ying-jeou, swept to a landslide victory in the presidential election on Saturday, the Central Election Commission confirmed.
To the surprise of many observers, the issue of an American green card is still hounding Ma Ying-jeou, the presidential candidate of the Kuomintang (KMT), to the very last moment before the March 22 presidential election. Ever more surprising is the fact that Ma, generally considered a politician of high integrity in Taiwan, seems to lie all along about the validity of his PR status, as indicated by advertisements in local media sponsored by the camp of Frank Hsieh, the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). What is most regrettable for his supporters is that Ma should have performed much better in this battle of credibility, but apparently he did not live up to public expectations, because he unwittingly chose to dance to the DPP’s tune, thus gradually and unknowingly falling into a trap set by his political enemy.
The document issued by the U.S. government as cited in a DPP advertisement states that “it is not the statement, renouncing residence, but the absence of a fixed intent to return, that results in the loss of LPR status.” Here, the key word is the “intent.” The very fact that Ma has gone to the U.S. many times from Taiwan using a non-immigrant visa instead of his green card, and that later he did not change his old green card to a new one as required by the U.S. government amply demonstrates that he had no “intent” to stay in the U.S. permanently. The only mistake he has made is that he is not that knowledgeable about the detailed regulations of the U.S. immigration law, and hence failed to fill out certain forms as legally required.
In fact, Ma is definitely not alone in his lack of understanding of U.S. law in this respect. Many naturalized Chinese-Americans can testify that they have always believed, as Ma did, that when they leave the U.S. for a long period of time, they would automatically lose their PR status. This is why so many Chinese with green cards are flying back from overseas to the U.S. once or twice a year to fulfill their obligation of confining themselves in what they satirically call the “immigration prison.”
Then, one may ask: Why is there such a big fuss about Ma’s green card in the first place? Because the DPP asserts that Ma does not “love Taiwan” by possessing a green card that could enable him to escape from Taiwan and find a “safe haven” in the U.S., any time during a crisis. Such a charge can be effectively countered by pointing out that Ma has worked in Taiwan for several decades and helped the island pull through crisis after crisis. To put it bluntly, as a prominent political figure in Taiwan, Ma would probably be allowed to “escape” to the U.S. any time during a crisis as he wishes, with or without a green card.
Green Cards are the carrot at the beginning of an immigration stick. Few, if any Americans fully understand Green Cards. More immigrants may understand them, because they rely on them to survive. The Green Card quagmire is just one of the many strings attached to the convoluted path America gives its immigrants. Many immigrants know more about America than Americans … they come to work. They come with hope. They are met with contempt. Taiwan’s new President is fortunate to have a political visa to replace his expired Green Card.