Israel Must Let the Foreign-worker Mothers and Children Stay

Children protest against the planned deportation on June 17, 2019.

One hundred female foreign workers, most of them from the Philippines, and their children who were born in Israel are due to be deported this summer by the Population and Immigration Authority. These women came to this country legally to work in jobs that Israelis don’t want to do, like caring for the elderly and the disabled.

But then they had children. As soon as these women had kids, the authorities, employment agencies and some employers changed their attitude toward them. Many lost their jobs, and their work visas weren’t renewed. They were forced to stay here without legal work, raising their children in a country that doesn’t let them work.

>> Bibi, who am I bothering? | Editorial

The children, meanwhile, have been attending Hebrew-language schools with Israeli kids, and have become Israeli themselves, with Israeli friends and an unbreakable bond with the country. The children lack official status, and if they have any passport (the vast majority don’t), it’s from the Philippines.

We’re talking about 100 Philippine mothers and their children. Israel won’t fall apart demographically if another 100 children are living here. Most of these women and their children have been living here for more than a decade, and now all of a sudden someone at the Population and Immigration Authority has decided that their time in Israel is up and they must be deported. Out of the blue, many of these mothers have been arrested and served with deportation papers.

The response from the Population and Immigration Authority is the height of cynicism: “these are foreign nationals who have been here for a long time unlawfully, without legal status.” Their status has not been regulated because the authority penalizes women foreign workers who have the nerve to give birth in Israel. Bring them here to attend to the elderly and the disabled? No problem. Let them live their lives and have children? Somehow, this is unacceptable.

At a demonstration last week, the children facing deportation chanted: “You don’t arrest and deport kids – kids are not criminals.” They’re right. It takes a special kind of heartlessness to deport innocent children.

It’s not too late to halt this pointless deportation. There is also a precedent for such a move. In 2006 and 2010, the government granted official status to the children of foreign workers. The children currently slated for deportation did not obtain such status at the time due to their age, but this could be rectified now. The government could grant them recognition in the same way it did for the other children, and not discriminate against these children just because they were born in one year and not another.

The government must take responsibility for the foreign workers it lets enter its borders, and for their children who were born here, who are Israeli in every way.

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