Editorial

These Children Are Israeli

Filipina women and their children demonstrating in Jerusalem.
Olivier Fitoussi

The shameful operation to deport Filipina workers and their children who were born and educated in Israel has begun. At 5 A.M. on Sunday, Interior Ministry immigration inspectors arrested a woman and her 12-year-old son who were in their beds. The two have since been held in the Population and Immigration Authority’s detention facility at Ben-Gurion International Airport, awaiting a decision by the Tel Aviv Appeals Court, which is hearing their appeal. The court has blocked their deportation until it rules.

The population authority plans this summer to deport dozens of female foreign workers, most of them Filipinas, along with their Israeli-born children – a total of around 100 people – even though the women came to Israel lawfully to work, and even though most of the children, who were born and raised in Israel, speak only Hebrew. The deportation is essentially a punishment for daring to give birth or be born in Israel.

>> Israel must head off expulsion of Filipino children | Opinion

From the moment they gave birth, these legal workers became illegal workers, because the Interior Ministry refused to renew their visas. This summer’s expulsion operation is not the result of a change in policy, but an implementation of policy: Because the population authority’s policy is to let these children finish the school year, the months of summer vacation are a window of opportunity to deport them.

Twelve-year-old Michael James was born and raised in Israel. He lives in Yehud, studies in a special education school and is about to enter 7th grade. Instead of spending his summer vacation at the beach with his friends, he has been in detention for two days, through no fault of his own, guilty from birth, and if the court doesn’t accept the appeal his mother has filed, he will be deported with her.

James is not alone. Dozens of other children are lying terrified in their beds, waiting for the knock on the door. Two weeks ago President Reuven Rivlin debated whether to get involved in stopping the deportations, but in the end decided not to intervene after population authority director Prof. Yehoshua Mor Yosef told him that canceling the deportations could set a precedent. Rivlin must not be satisfied with this bureaucratic excuse. Any fair person, all the more so the country’s president, knows that deporting a 12-year-old boy who was born and has lived his whole life in Israel is an injustice that the word “precedent” cannot obscure.

Actually, the decision not to deport already has a precedent. In both 2006 and 2010, the government decided to give residency status to children of foreign workers. The children who are now asking the state to recognize them are those children who did not get residency status back then because they were too young, yet were not deported and were educated here. Israel can and must grant legal status to these children and their mothers and allow them to live in the place where they feel they belong, as Israelis in every way.

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