Arrested While Packing Her Schoolbag

Gena, 13, who was arrested by immigration police as she was about to leave for school, October 29, 2019
Courtesy of UCI

When the school year opened, the director of the Population, Immigration and Border Authority, Shlomo Mor-Yosef, promised that migrants’ children wouldn’t be arrested at school or on their way to and from school. This seems self-evident: Every child is entitled to go school with a feeling of security. There’s no reason for children who were born and raised in Israel, who speak Hebrew as their mother tongue and consider Israel as their home, but who, purely by chance, were born to labor migrants who entered Israel legally and gave birth while they were here, to pay such a heavy price for their mothers’ choices. Yet this week, it turned out that Mor-Yosef’s promises were empty.

At 6:15 A.M., as she was packing her schoolbag, with a friend waiting for her outside so they could walk to their middle school together, immigration police burst into 13-year-old Gena Antigo’s apartment and arrested her as preparation for deporting her (Lee Yaron, Haaretz, October 31). Two days earlier, 10-year-old Ralph Harel was arrested in the same way, as he was getting ready to go to his elementary school. Currently, both children and their mothers are in jail, a place unsuitable for children, as a custody judge appointed by the state, Ilan Halabaga, ruled back in July. “Normative people and minors don’t belong in a detention facility,” he wrote.

Moreover, Gena was arrested without any hearing held on her behalf in violation of a Justice Ministry ruling that the immigration authority must hold hearings for migrant children aged 12 or older who face deportation. According to this directive, the authorities must view the children’s wishes and their welfare as key considerations in deciding whether to deport them. The immigration authority said Gena wasn’t given a hearing because the necessary personnel haven’t yet been trained. But instead of training the requisite staff and only then engaging in violent operations like arrests, the immigration authority considered it urgent to arrest two children aged 10 and 13.

Instead of showing compassion for children born in Israel who speak Hebrew just like all their classmates, Israel is insisting on treating them cruelly and cold-heartedly. This inhumane policy toward the children of migrant workers has an address: the director of the immigration authority, Mor-Yosef; Interior Minister Arye Dery; and the Israeli government, headed by Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.