A case that would challenge the wisdom of Solomon

Analysis: He's a Thai illegal, she's from the Philippines; they claim he's the father of her daughter; now the state is set to tear their family apart.

oz unit inspector 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
oz unit inspector 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The arrest of an illegal worker from Thailand on Monday, by Oz immigration inspectors, sheds light on a complex issue facing the state in its efforts to deport families of foreign workers.
The man, Antonio Defamailo claims he is the father of a three-and-a-half-year-old girl, who he is raising along with his wife, a caregiver from the Philippines. Subject to deportation, Defamailo’s family is in danger of being torn apart because the girl did not meet the government’s criteria for permanent residency. The Interior Ministry claims that Defamailo is registered as single in all his paperwork and that there is no proof that he is a husband and a father.
Defamailo’s wife, Beni Estbey, who lives in Haifa, said the immigration police called her to tell her that Defamailo was arrested, but she hasn’t been able to contact him. “Our daughter keeps asking where her father is. I told Antonio before that if there was an arrest, I would take the girl to the Philippines, but he refused. We have nowhere to go,” said Estbey.
“He’s not the father,” said the spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry department in charge of immigration.
“His passport states that he’s single. His visa application states that he’s single. He wasn’t able to produce a single document proving he is a husband and a father. As far as the state is concerned, this is not a family. The man is currently in detention and is subject to deportation pending a hearing.”
Both the social worker who was put on the case and the volunteers at the hotline for migrant workers said they were familiar with the couple and could vouch for the fact that they live and raise the girl together. They also said that if need be, Defamailo would be willing to undergo a paternity test to prove he is indeed the father.
However, even if paternity is proved definitively, the family isn’t safe. Because the child is less than five, she does not meet the threshold that would grant the girl permanent resident status and enable the family to remain united in Israel.
According to the Hotline for Migrant Workers, there are over 200 families currently residing in Israel in which the father is from one nationality and the mother from another. Deporting the families will in effect break them apart, with the parents having to choose where the child will go. Until they decide, the father will be forced to remain in detention.
The hotline blames the state for putting the parents in such a problematic situation, stating that government regulations that forbid foreign workers from getting married and having children, with the threat of deportation hanging over the heads of those who do, force couples to act secretively, sacrificing formal marriage in favor of the opportunity to continue working.
“The fact that the father is not registered as such, in this case and in hundreds of others, is a direct result of the immigration authorities’ policies, which see migrant workers as objects and forbid them to form families,” said the group’s spokeswoman.
As far as the state is concerned, however, the family’s troubles are not its concern.
“The children have two citizenships. We have no obligation to allow them to stay just because the parents can’t agree on where to take them. These same issues came up in the last round of deportations several years ago,” said the ministry spokeswoman.
The government is likely to face widespread international criticism over its deportation policy. How much worse will it be when the state is seen to be forcing parents to make a Solomonic choice over their children?