Israeli Group Seeks Deportation Reprieve for Migrant Workers' Children

Court petition applies to 19 children whose birthdays fall a few days after the cut-off date for escaping expulsion.

An Israeli organization is seeking a reprieve on behalf of 19 children of migrant workers whose birthdays are within days of a cut-off date that would exempt them and their families from deportation from Israel.

The Hotline for Migrant Workers is set to begin submitting petitions to the Tel Aviv Administrative Court on behalf of the 19 children, who are all enrolled in state-run kindergartens and were less than 5 years old on the day that the government approved a new set of criteria for granting residency status to foreigners and their children.

workers - Motti Milrod - October 10 2010
Motti Milrod

The advocacy group said that the children's families - who wish to obtain legal status in Israel - were rejected outright by the Interior Ministry.

According to the set of guidelines approved by the government on August 1, children of migrant workers who have been in the country for at least five years prior to the government decision and who are beginning first grade or higher this coming school year will be eligible for permanent residency status.

The 19 petitions will be submitted on behalf of kindergarteners who do not meet the first-grade threshold. Osnat Cohen-Lifshitz, an attorney who represents the organization, said that while migrant workers' children who were born before August 1, 2005 have yet to receive a response to their requests for permanent status, 19 families whose children were born after August 1, 2005 were immediately rejected. The outright rejection denies the families the right to appeal and exposes them to the possibility of deportation within days, Lifshitz said.

"The government decision states that borderline cases will be referred to a special committee," Lifshitz said. "Even though we are talking about borderline cases, the Interior Ministry immediately rebuffed their requests for status instead of referring these cases to the special committee. We are convinced that these families ought to be heard by the committee, which will examine each and every instance."

She said any request for a hearing before the panel is subject to the approval of the Interior Ministry.

The advocacy group said that of the 19 instances in question, some included children whose fifth birthdays fell just a few days after the cut-off date of August 1. Roda Fakon, a migrant worker from the Philippines, is mother to Charlotte, who turned 5 on August 31. She also has a 1-year-old son, Yisrael. She said that she was fully aware that the new criteria offered permanent residency to children in the first grade, but that she was encouraged to try to obtain status for her daughter, who was enrolled in kindergarten. She was promptly rejected by the Interior Ministry.

Fakon said that she does not wish to leave Israel, which she says is the only country that her children know.

Another mother noted that her son's fifth birthday was on August 3, but he did not meet the criteria because he was still in kindergarten. Although she expects to be deported, she is waiting to see if the court intervenes on her behalf.

"Eighteen of the 19 families are those whose mothers came from the Philippines to work here in nursing and caring for the elderly," the Hotline said in a statement. "For years they look after our grandmothers and grandfathers, and they are with us during the most poignant family moments. They are the ones who are now forced to fight so that their children are not deported from Israel, the only home they have ever known."

The Interior Ministry's population and immigration authority said it had no intention of discussing the matter anywhere except the court.