The Mother Must Leave

The problem when the ministry demands that parents like Marylene Cuyugan leave Israel, it is, in effect, attempting to deport their Israeli children to Third World countries.

None of Marylene Cuyugan's requests for an employment permit or permit to remain in Israel were granted. It did not help that the Filipina foreign worker's son, 3-year-old Haim Cuyugan, is an Israeli citizen and the son of an Israeli. Nor did it help that Marylene Cuyugan is raising Haim alone.

The Interior Ministry responded to Cuyugan and her attorney, Ya'akov Goldberg, that according to Israeli law, a child's status in Israel does not grant his parents status, and the ministry demanded that Cuyugan leave the country. The problem is that when the ministry demands that Cuyugan and other parents like her leave Israel, it is, in effect, attempting to deport their Israeli children to Third World countries.

In a letter written by Haim's kindergarten teacher, Mariana Lipovski, she writes, "Haim learned about and integrated Israeli culture: Holidays, customs, songs, the flag, manners, food, language.... He's on the right path. Moving to a country which is so different and foreign to him could cause him a great deal of damage."

Haim Cuyugan has a congenital heart defect which requires annual examinations in the hospital. If he is deported to the Philippines with his mother, they will not have health insurance. It is reasonable to assume that Haim's mother would also fail to find the type of employment that would make it possible for her to pay for doctor's visits. In an administrative appeal filed by Goldberg, he maintained that sending the child to the Philippines would represent a grave sentence.

Cuyugan's case is not unique. A year and a half ago, Haaretz published an account of the Interior Ministry's attempt to deport Y., a 36-year old Ukrainian citizen with an Israeli son. The son, age 12, has been here for nine years and is completely unfamiliar with his nation of birth. His mother joined him later and embarked upon the graduated citizenship process. In Israel, his father became addicted to drugs and was guilty of domestic violence. He returned to Ukraine alone, where he was imprisoned. In 2002, the couple divorced, and the Interior Ministry initiated proceedings to deport Y. and her son. No less than two administrative appeals and countless visits to the ministry were required until Y. was granted temporary residence status for a year. Her visa will expire in half a year. Her attorney, Nicole Maor of the Israel Religious Action Center, says she has no idea whether or not the visa will be renewed.

We are not aware of an actual case in which a child with Israeli citizenship was deported. On the other hand, it is highly probable that children like this did not have the privilege of legal representation and their case is therefore unknown. There is also no known case of a mother of a child like this who was granted permanent status. In the best cases, mothers were granted temporary status after prolonged legal battles - and their futures are uncertain. In the worst cases, mothers are defined as illegal residents.

It is unclear what the Population Administration achieves when it transforms the lives of families like these into continuous nightmares of bureaucracy, legal proceedings, fear of deportation, and the lack of any ability to obtain permanent employment. The Population Administration is, in effect, sentencing these children to a life of poverty.

If Haim Cuyugan is sent away, it is a safe bet that he will return when he is 18, having forgotten all of his Hebrew, and lacking occupational skills to suit the Israeli market. What will the State of Israel gain from this? There may be some logic in the fact that adult children do not confer status on their parents. But when the case is that of a minor, who requires his mother's continual presence, this is nothing but inflexible cruelty. A child who is an Israeli citizen is entitled to remain in Israel. If the result is that several dozen foreign women attain status in Israel, we should accept them with open arms. It is frequently difficult to understand the Population Administration's zealous use of every means at its disposal to prevent granting status in clearly humanitarian cases, only because they involve non-Jews. This is particularly absurd against the background of a campaign to grant citizenship to children of foreign workers in which parents are also entitled to residence status. But this absurdity may be the actual cause of a shift in the Population Administration's position. Yesterday, they announced a decision to re-examine the question of mothers of Israeli children, in conjunction with the citizenship campaign for children of foreign workers, and, for now, no one will be sent away. It is still too early to declare a solution to the problem but it is fair to hope.