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June 27, 2017

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Focus on the future justifies broader naturalization rules

Father Brendan O'Connell, who founded an institute for developmentally impaired children and worked in Taiwan for over fifty years and wanted to apply for R.O.C. citizenship, received a make-do R.O.C. I.D. constructed by an admirer last week. Despite thanking the man for his goodwill, O'Connell stated 'I don't want this fake thing, I want the real one!" The episode was shown on Formosa TV.

At present, he only has a permanent residence card. The reason for his not qualifying is that he is not willing to give up his U.S. citizenship because he still has family back home and having the U.S. passport aids his travels.

Legislators have already promised to resolve the situation; the goal being to resolve problems arising from clause nine of the R.O.C. Nationality Law, which requires renunciation of an applicant's existing citizenship. The prohibition does not apply the other way around.

Legislators are planning to table bills that would expand the clause for honorary obtainment of citizenship, which would forgo the requirement to renounce the original citizenship for those who have made "outstanding contributions to the country or are needed specialists," according to a report in a local newspaper. Given Father O'Connell's decades of contribution to Taiwan, this would be an great solution for him.

But the government should go further in its amendments. It should not be those special few outstanding people, or even a group of people with skills in demand, who don't have to renounce their citizenship.

Rather, all applicants should be able to retain their original citizenship, and the law should be designed to be the same for immigrants as it is for emigrants of Taiwan - we do not currently require nationals to renounce their citizenship when they take another nationality, and so when other citizens want to join us, they should not be required to renounce citizenship of their original country.

When we discriminate against prospective participants in the R.O.C. family, we are missing out on a chance to retain the benefits of the 'future.' Defining immigrants by the number of contributions they have already made can be a consideration in the selection process, but we shouldn't deter those who have the potential to develop into productive members of society.

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