Editorial

Bibi, Who Am I Bothering?

Israel is deporting children of migrant workers, but many were born and raised in Israel and have never known another home

The children of migrant workers who were deported this summer, and children who are to be deported in the future, February 17, 2019.
Moti Milrod

The fact that Israel is deporting children of migrant workers who were born here, who have lived here all their lives and most of whom speak no language other than Hebrew is a blot on the country. Deporting children from where they were born and raised would disgrace any country, but that's particularly true for the state of the Jews, a nation of refugees.

All the legal explanations provided by the Population and Immigration Authority and all the bureaucratic, demographic and nationalist excuses provided by the Interior Ministry and other supporters of the deportations are nothing more than a drop in the bucket compared to the moral injustice being done to these children, whose only crime was being born to their parents.

On Monday, Haaretz reported that, over the past few months, the Immigration Authority has detained about 20 female foreign workers from the Philippines who are slated to be deported with their children in July and August. The authority denied that there had been any change in its policy or that a decision had been made in favor of mass deportations. But leaders of the Filipino community in Israel and social activists say there have been almost no deportations in the past few years.

We must disregard the slogans and the statistical data and understand that these are children whose identity is Israeli. “My son doesn’t know anything other than Israel,” said B., a migrant worker from the Philippines. “He’s not willing to eat pork and just talks about how much he wants to enlist in the army .... The only language he speaks is Hebrew. He’s 13 years old and he’s never been in any other country,” she said.

Her son is not alone. There are currently 1,478 children of Filipino workers in the Israeli school system.

The law states that such a migrant worker is entitled to remain in the country with her baby until her visa expires. The children now facing deportation were born in Israel to migrant workers whose residency visas have expired.

Granted, the Immigration Authority is enforcing the law against people who have broken it. But it’s hard to accept this explanation when it’s aimed at children who were never given an opportunity "to respect the law." Their parents may have broken the law, but they themselves are Israeli children who are innocent of any crime.

In 2006 and 2010, the cabinet decided to grant legal status to the children of migrant workers. The children who had not received such status at the time because of their age, but who on the other hand weren’t deported during those years and were educated here, are now asking the government to recognize them as well, rather than deporting them to their parents’ homeland, which they have never even visited.

“I want to ask Bibi, what the problem is with our being here? Who am I bothering?” asked 11-year-old Azriel, a sixth grader at the Bialik-Rogozin school in Tel Aviv. Azriel’s question should keep Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and every other Israeli up at night. The deportations must not be carried out. The state has to recognize these children as Israelis.

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