Israeli enforcement agents arrested on Tuesday morning two foreign workers from the Philippines along with their three children – all born in Israel - ahead of their deportation.
Immigration authorities raided the home of Geraldine Esta in Ramat Gan and arrested her, her two children, and another Filipina woman with her baby who had been in the house.
>> Read more: These children are Israeli | Editorial
Ganalin Lot, a close friend of Esta who was present at the scene told Haaretz that Esta had been working in Israel for 16 years, and had long feared deportation, rarely leaving the house and staying away from the central bus station to avoid encountering authorities.
In 2006 and 2010, the government made two decisions granting legal status to the children of foreign workers. Now, children who did not get legal status at that time due to their age, but were not deported then and have since gone to school here, are asking the government to recognize them and not deport them to their parents’ country of origin, where they have never lived.
Lot tells Haaretz that she got a message from Esta at 6:30 A.M. saying she was scared because officers were standing outside of her window, trying to get into the house. "I got there and saw police outside, and they were yelling over and over to open the door. Then they came with something to break down the door, and got into the house. They took them out of the house crying," Lot said.
"The ten-year-old boy cried and I told him to be strong. It was horrifying to watch," Lot added.
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Nitzan Horowitz, the chairman of Meretz, was present when the arrests were made. He tweeted on Tuesday morning: “These children were born here, and their sole ‘crime’ is that they were born to a mother from the Philippines."
The immigration inspectors “removed the woman, who was crying bitterly, two trembling children, two bags with a little bit of clothes and that is how they end people’s lives. They put the children, completely hysterical, into this sealed vehicle on the way to the detention cell,” Horowitz wrote. “You could hear the crying and screaming from inside. This is what you do to criminals, not to small children. There is no reason in the world to act this way. It is much more than shameful and disgusting – it is abuse and it must stop,” he added.
The Population and Immigration Authority plans to deport about 100 foreign workers from the Philippines, along with their children, who were born in Israel.
On Sunday, immigration enforcement agents arrested a mother and son in a predawn raid on their Yehud home, even though the boy was born in Israel and the family’s appeal of the decision to deport them is still pending.
Sunday evening, the appellate custody tribunal in Tel Aviv issued an injunction against their deportation until 10 A.M. Monday morning and ordered the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority to respond by then to their request to remain here in Israel.
The appellate custody tribunal delayed the hearing for two weeks on Monday.
Hundreds of protesters came out to demonstrate against the deportations in front of the government office complex in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening. One of the Filipino mothers at the demonstration told Haaretz: “We aren’t sleeping, everyone is afraid, the children don’t want to go outside. My child asked me today not to go to work, so they wouldn’t arrest me.”
The Filipino community in Israel fears the actual number will be larger in the end, whereas the Immigration Authority has confirmed that the number is in the dozens.
A 13-year-old boy, the son of a Filipino woman who is scheduled to be deported, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday. “Until a short time ago I knew who I was. I knew I was Israeli, the son of immigrants, a high school student. I knew that after school I would enlist to defend my country, Israel, and after that I will go to university," he wrote.
"Since my family received the deportation order I don’t know what my future will be. I’m afraid of the poverty in the Philippines, I’m afraid because I don’t know the language there and because I don’t have friends there. My heart is broken from the thought that my friend, my age, is sitting in jail even though he isn’t a criminal. I’m afraid to be in jail and I’m afraid they will deport me," he wrote, "I’m asking you and pleading, don’t deport me and my friends."