State: Best interest of Filipino child doesn’t trump deportation

sraeli law does not include jus soli – a rule that the citizenship of a child is determined by the place of its birth.

Filipino children protest their imminent deportation outside the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, Israel (photo credit: CASSANDRA GOMES HOCHBERG)
Filipino children protest their imminent deportation outside the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, Israel
The Justice Ministry announced on Wednesday that although it will consider the best interests of a noncitizen Filipino child before deporting the child and his family, the deportation can still go forward in order to deter unwanted migration.
In August, the state deported Rosemary Perez and her son, 13-year-old Rohan, despite significant outcries that the decision was inhumane since Rohan had never lived outside of Israel and was born here.
This deportation was part of a state initiative to crack down on approximately 100 Filipinos who came to Israel on approved visas but remained after their visas expired and had children while they were here.
For some period of time the state had mostly turned a blind eye to the issue. However, over the summer, the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority began to arrest and deport Filipino families, including minors, who were part of this group.
It is unclear exactly why the state started focusing on the issue this summer, considering that there have been extensive public battles over the residence and rights of other migrant communities in Israel for well over a decade.
Following public protests against the new state crackdown, as well as a letter criticizing the policy by former senior ministry official Yehudit Karp, the Justice Ministry held multiple consultations and amended the protocol for handling the issue.
Wednesday’s announcement clarified that the state will consider the best interests of Filipino minors before deciding whether to deport them.
It also said that it would give Filipino minors age 12 and over a hearing so that the minors could express their view on where they wish to live.
Minors under the age of 12, the state said, would not necessarily be granted a hearing, but the state could still provide some kind of forum for determining the minors’ views about where they would reside.
In addition, the state said that it would try to avoid arresting minors to carry out deportations, unless there was no other way to carry out the expulsion.
Despite all of the updated policies, the state was clear that it believes it can deport the Filipinos whose visas have expired and their minor children who were born in Israel, even if the best interests of the minor would be to stay.
Essentially, Deputy attorneys-general Dena Zilber and Roy Schondorf supported the state policy that seeking to deter new unwanted migration could trump individual noncitizen Filipino-minor children’s best interests.
The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants complimented the state for taking the best interests of minors into account and improving its overall sensitivity to the fact that minors are among the Filipino deportees.
At the same time, the hotline criticized the state for making an incentive for the Filipino community to come to Israel and work as cheap labor in jobs that native Israeli citizens do not want, while also being unwilling to let any of them stay if they succeed in building a life here.
The hotline noted that while most of the Filipino workers leave Israel before their visas expire, if a small number find a way to build a life here, including having children who are culturally Israeli, the state should be willing to “come to terms with that.”
THE QUESTION of Filipinos in Israel is particularly confusing.
Unlike most African migrants, who crossed into Israel without permission, most or all Filipinos came to Israel on legal work visas.
On the other hand, the visas of those on deportation row have expired, and, unlike African migrants, there is no danger that they will be persecuted if they are sent home.
There is no real obvious legal obstacle to deporting Filipino workers whose visas have expired.
Israeli law does not include jus soli – a rule that the citizenship of a child is determined by the place of its birth. Rather, people born in Israel who do not have any other citizenship can request it between ages 18 to 21, if they lived in the country for more than five years.
Historically, policy-makers and kings have debated what criteria should be used for offering naturalization to new residents.
In the US and other countries in North, Central and South America, the trend has been mostly jus soli, meaning birth in a country does entitle one to citizenship, regardless of the citizenship status of one’s parents.
In Europe, Asia, the Middle East and many African countries, citizenship has been based mostly on jus sanguinis, or the principle that naturalization is based on one’s marriage, parentage, or origins.
Until relatively recently, the US heavily encouraged immigration to help populate the vast new parts of North America, which were still the unsettled frontier. Hence, the more lenient test for citizenship.
In other parts of the world, there were already earlier concerns of massive immigration trends that could undermine national security or at least a country’s national character and identity. Hence, the stricter citizenship test.
What seems to have ignited some sympathy for the around 100 children of foreign workers born in Israel who are at risk of being deported is the idea that some have lived in Israel for well over a decade and speak Hebrew as their first language.