Analysis

Tel Aviv Court Rules That Foreign Workers’ Children Are Human After All

Whether the ruling to let these children have an opinion of their fate is upheld or not might determine the character of the country

Children protest the detention of their classmate outside Givon prison, Ramla, October 31, 2019. The sign says: 'They're kids just like us!'
Tomer Appelbaum

By ruling to revoke the deportation orders against two foreign workers and their children, Judge Michael Zilberschmidt of the appeals tribunal in Tel Aviv overturned a Population and Immigration Authority decision to deport a Filipina mother and her 10-year-old son. 

The woman, Maureen Mariano, came to Israel to work as a homecare aide, and did so legally until 2009. Since then she has lived here illegally with her son, who was born in Israel. The case was returned to the head of the population authority for reconsideration, based on the instructions handed down by the appeals court.

The flaw the court found in the authority head’s decision was that “it was not possible to determine if the good of the minor was properly examined before deciding to issue the deportation order.” This was the ruling, even though the 10-year-old does not have any formal rights to be heard in court. The judge also mentioned the importance of representation in such cases as an inherent right that must be allowed and implemented.

It turns out that the protests against the Immigration Authority’s new policy of deporting the children of foreign workers who were born and educated in Israel bore fruit. According to instructions issued by the justice ministry in October, a child 12 or older has a right to a hearing before making a decision on deportating or placing them in detention. No less important, the child’s welfare must be taken into account as a central consideration as part of making this decision. The child must meet with a social worker, who will prepare a report on the child’s situation, wishes and the significance of the deportation from Israel in the context of the child’s welfare.

The appeals tribunal’s decision in effect guarantees that these guidelines will be enforced. One can only hope that the population authority’s chief will approach the matter with an open heart and a new perspective. It is especially critical that the child not be punished for his mother’s crimes, after she knowingly violated the law and did not act to arrange her residency status – and that of her son. The population authority told the judge that the appeal should have been dismissed out of hand because of the mother’s sin and a lack of good faith. Such a claim might have some standing as far as the mother is concerned, but the child is not guilty of the same.

It is clear, and this can be seen explicitly in the judge’s ruling, that the authority has not yet implemented the Justice Ministry instructions. Because such implementation is a necessary precondition for the authority to act legally, it is obvious that the proceedings for detention and deportation of minors must be suspended until the authority implements them properly.

It is not clear why the Justice Ministry set 12 as the minimum age for a child to gte a hearing. This case demonstrates the arbitrariness of this standard. Every child is capable of expressing their desires, and it would be appropriate for them to be heard.

It is regrettable that the High Court of Justice has avoided delving into the question. This is essential to prevent serious and unjustified suffering for children born in Israel, who were educated here, identify with the country and want to live here. It is unreasonable that because they are not Jewish, it is possible to treat them inhumanely and harm them.

Many are watching the Israeli legal system, but most important among them are the other children. In the balance is Israel’s character. Is it a country committed to humanist values, or is it a country ruled by cold-heartedness and insensitivity?