In Policy Reversal, Israel Could Deport Foreign Workers, Israeli-born Children During School Year

Immigration authority changes policy that limited deportation of school-aged children

Students at the Hillel School in Ramat Gan hug their classmate, who is slated for deportation, September 1, 2019.
\ Moti Milrod

In a policy reversal, the Interior Ministry said Sunday that it will now deport Filipina workers with school-aged children even during the school year.

Last year, the ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority decided that families with children enrolled in school would be deported only during summer vacation. The new policy is a reversion to that of previous years, when families with children were deported year-round.

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Nevertheless, the authority has promised that it will not arrest children slated for deportation while they are at school or on their way to and from school, according to a letter disseminated to Tel Aviv principals by the head of the city’s education department. The letter said that Mayor Ron Huldai had negotiated the policy of keeping schools off-limits with the director of the Immigration Authority, Shlomo Mor-Yosef, to allow children to attend classes and return home without fear of arrest.

On Sunday, students at a number of Tel Aviv schools demonstrated against the planned deportations of their classmates. Ram Cohen, principal of the city’s Tichonet High School, also mounted an exhibit on school grounds with the names and photos of students slated for deportation.

“Mr. Mor-Yosef ought to be ashamed of the job he has taken on,” Cohen wrote in a Facebook post. “He is betraying his medical calling, betraying his oath as a doctor," — a reference to Mor-Yosef's previous profession as a gynecologist and director of Hadassah University Hospital — "betraying the loftiest and most basic human values. About him, I can’t say a person is a person is a person. He isn’t!”

A few days before the school year began on Sunday, dozens of school principals and parents associations in Tel Aviv sent a letter to Interior Minister Arye Dery demanding that deportations of Filipino children be halted during the school year. "We demand that children of Filipino origin who aren’t Israeli citizens, the classmates of our children, be allowed to emerge from hiding and plan for the school year, which begins in less than a week, in peace," said the letter, which was organized by Deputy Mayor Tzipi Brand.

Last week, a petition challenging the deportations was filed in the High Court of Justice on behalf of the children of Filipina caregivers, their Israeli classmates and their mothers. The petition argued that the Immigration Authority had no right to change its policy with a transitional government that does not have the public's trust and has no oversight from the Knesset, which has blocked similar deportations in the past. The state was expected to respond on Thursday, but has not yet done so.

Attorney David Tadmor, who filed the petition, amended it on Sunday to add a new argument – that deporting children during the school year will deprive them of their right to education under the Compulsory Education Law.

Last week, the Tel Aviv District Court ordered the release of a Filipino couple and their Israeli–born daughters, who were arrested about three weeks ago, until the end of their legal proceedings. The release of Sheila and Randy Velasco and their daughters Kim and Maureen was conditional on a bond of 20 thousand shekels (about $5,665), which was paid by parents and students of the Balfour school in Tel Aviv, where their daughters study.

The Interior Ministry plans to deport around 100 Filipina migrant workers whose visas have expired, along with their Israeli-born children. The women arrived in Israel legally in order to work, but their visas were not renewed after they gave birth in Israel. Last month, Rosemarie Perez and her 13-year-old Israeli-born son Rohan were deported. Two additional Filipina workers and their children have been arrested, and legal proceedings against them are ongoing.