High Court Refuses to Freeze Deportation of Migrant Workers' Israeli-born Children

Petitioners argue the Israeli authorities had illegally changed a policy under a caretaker government, but justices say it's too early to intervene

A demonstration against the deportation of the children of migrant workers, Tel Aviv, August 2019.
Meged Gozani

Israel's High Court of Justice on Thursday denied a petition that would have blocked an order to deport the Israeli-born children of migrant workers living in Israel illegally.

Attorney David Tadmor filed the petition last week, saying the Population and Immigration Authority had launched a new policy of deporting school-age children of migrant workers during the school year.

On Sunday, the authority went ahead and announced that it would deport Filipino children throughout the school year. Last year, officials let the school year run out before deporting such families.

Thus, the petitioners said, Sunday's decision constitutes a different policy and thus is forbidden to a caretaker government. They also said the policy violated the children’s constitutional rights.

The Population and Immigration Authority denied that there had been any policy change.

On Thursday, the court said it could not grant the petition because no efforts to deport migrant-worker children had been launched. Justices Neal Hendel, Isaac Amit and Menachem Mazuz said the petition “attacks a general policy, seeking sweeping support for a large population relative to the majority before any administrative steps had been taken.”

The justices added that there was nothing preventing the petitioners from “returning to the courts after implementation of the procedures.”

Tadmor, who with his colleagues is representing the petitioners pro bono, said the High Court had rejected the petition for strictly procedural reasons of “not implementing proceedings.”

“With all due respect, the population authority changed a policy, we believe illegally,” Tadmor said. “In these days preceding the election, in which the Knesset and the government are not functioning, the court is the last resort. We will consider the next proper step and bring this issue to the Supreme Court in the coming days.”

As he put it, “These children didn’t choose their place of birth or education, or their language, or their school or friends.” He also said they did not choose their legal status.

“They don’t have a drop of guilt – only life circumstances, which were never under their control,” he added. “They are Israelis in every respect, and Israel is their only home. We believe that the immigration authority’s policy is illegal, besides contradicting the values of Judaism, ethics and democracy.”