The problems for Ben Hlavaty, a US citizen, began when he and his Taiwanese spouse divorced in May 2008. Until then, Hlavaty had an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) through his marriage and did not need a work permit to work at the TFD, his employer since December 2007.Ben's press conference and other links. This story is long and convoluted, but it tells a tale that over the years I've seen many variations on. If you read between the lines, you can easily see that somewhere along the line, somebody with access to his records or knowledge of his work history decided to screw him -- it is hard to see otherwise how anyone could have decided he was working in Taiwan illegally for three years with an ARC and paying taxes and receiving insurance.
LINKS to Ben's presser: FocusTaiwan 公視 (Video) 民視 中央社 (CNA Chinese) 新浪網 (Sina)
Ben's story in his own words is below the fold. Go thou and read!!!!
On Thursday, March 29, 2012, the Taipei High Administrative Court ruled against my appeal of the Council of Labor Affairs’ decision to ban me from working and order my deportation as punishment for my previous employment with the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. Though I possess a master’s in Taiwan Studies and have taken a serious interest in Hengchun Folk Music, I may have been able to treat expulsion from Taiwan as a messy divorce and thus start my life anew elsewhere. That is, I would be able to do so if it were not for the one whom I love even more deeply than myself – my five-year-old son Isaac.
Of course, it was common knowledge at the Foundation that I was a divorcé to a local woman and a single father in Taiwan. So when I received my new Taiwan resident visa in Hong Kong and applied for my Alien Resident Certificate in Taipei, all accomplished with the smoothest convenience thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was overjoyed not only to live near my son and try to start a friendship with his mother, but also to be working as a proud part of the whole mechanism that built Taiwan’s image on the international stage as “Asia’s beacon of democracy”.
When in late 2010 the newly appointed Foundation President Huang Teh-Fu (黃德福) under the Ma administration fired me without cause given and refused my three-month severance pay, I felt it to be an irony of Orwellian proportions. My other superiors believed I had worked very well, even in the absence of my director who was due to return soon from paternity leave. Furthermore, how could a human rights assistance organization trample on the rights of workers? Naturally, I offered a legal challenge to President Huang's decision. I was successful, and a settlement was reached. However, before I could find a new job to support my son, the Bureau of Labor Affairs demanded an explanation as to why I had been illegally working during my three-year employment with the Foundation.
Figuring this to be a bureaucratic mistake, I submitted my defense, including copies of my MOFA invitations, my income tax records, my ARC that lists my work for the Foundation as my reason of stay, etc. Then I was fined NT$30,000 for not having a permit through the proper channels. On the advice of civil servants, I submitted an appeal, believing that the mistake would clear up. Then the CLA slapped me with a three-year work ban and ordered me to leave Taiwan within fourteen days.
With the help of sympathetic CLA employees, I wrote my appeal of the deportation and submitted it to the CLA Appeals Committee, who well over a month later felt that they could not review it and handed it to the top level, the Executive Yuan. The EY, in turn, sent me a letter, ordering my deportation to proceed, as my appeal was improperly written according to EY standards and I could not be contacted to change it. I then filed a complaint at the American Institute in Taiwan, who subsequently told me that they were not in the habit of telling the Taiwan government what to do.
As for gaining an ARC through my split custody, the Bureau of Consular Affairs has repeatedly told me to get a work permit first, after which I could change the reason to that of my child. Together with my son's grandparents, I submitted a written plea explaining my present work ban by the CLA, meaning that all applications of my work permit were to be denied for three years. BOCA had a private talk with me afterward. I was told to find a cram school and to get a work permit, after which I may be able to change my reason of stay. Later, I received a phone call from BOCA requesting me to return the file they had forgotten to take back from me.
At court, my defense covered many sides. We produced copies of my labor insurance from my Foundation days, which must have meant that the Bureau of Labor Insurance, who is subordinate to the CLA, had found me legal during those three years. We pointed out that I have a child in Taiwan to whom I have a responsibility, and I possess split custody. We explained that I had a valid ARC and resident visa, I reported all my taxes and I received health insurance. And then there is Article 48 of the Employment Services Act, which exempts work permits for counselors and researchers of governments and their subordinate academic research institutions. In fact, it seems to me that certain EY bodies believed I was legal under Article 48, and then after I was fired and agreed to a settlement, changed their minds.
As stated before, I lost. When my good Taiwan friends ask me why I had lost, I feel embarrassed as I really do not know. The court simply told me that my boy was still small and encouraged me to appeal the decision and also to find another way to stay in Taiwan. I was also told off the record that I had done nothing wrong. Regardless of good intentions, I find little comfort in these “jiayous” or unofficial reassurances of my innocence. After hearing my verdict, I could do nothing but think about Isaac and how he grows quiet when he thinks his baba will leave him. My Taiwan friends and family express disbelief at this story, assured that family matters would take highest precedence in court. How could such twisted justice in the end prevail in Asia’s beacon of democracy?
Though I write this with dismay, I realize that I can do nothing but appeal to a higher power. If I am going to be separated from my boy for my work in promoting Taiwan’s democracy and human rights at the request of MOFA, then I will go down fighting as an example to Isaac. Taiwan is my home, and though I had failed as many things, I will not fail as a father.
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.