New Interior Minister Roni Bar-On proposed Tuesday that more children of foreign workers be granted legal status here in Israel. Under his plan, children would have to be in first grade or above and have lived in Israel for at least five years.
Recently the government gave legal status to children 10 and older who were born in Israel and whose parents had entered the country legally. Only 40 have been approved so far out of the 460 who have applied, and many children have been worried that they would be deported.
Bar-On intends to bring the matter to the cabinet shortly. While other plans to broader the eligibility criteria for children of foreign workers have failed to pass the government, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has recently said the issue of these children was an important one.
"This is a central issue and immediately upon my entrance into office I needed to deal with it," Bar-On said. "These children were raised in Israel and are involved in the country, which they didn't chose to be born in. We, as the Jewish people, must have a special sensibility toward those who were uprooted and have a human and fair attitude toward them."
The Hotline for Migrant Workers welcomed the proposal, which mirrors the criteria which they have long pressed the government to adopt.
"This decision is unbelievable, because it's exactly what we asked for," said Hotline spokesman Romm Lewkowicz. "That's a rare thing."
He added that the organization is "optimistic" about the chances the plan has of passing the government "because we know it's an initiative of Ehud Olmert."
He said that most of the children of foreign workers in the country had already applied under the stricter guidelines even though they had less chance of being accepted, so he didn't expect the numbers to increase greatly. Whatever the total, he estimated that it would be well under the 2,500 children initially set as a cap by the government.