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Ofrecina Cuenca and her son Michael James.(Photo by: UNITED CHILDREN OF ISRAEL)
Illegal immigrants released pending appeal against deportation
By JEREMY SHARON
07/29/2019
Approximately 100 children born in Israel to foreign workers face deportation from Israel.
An immigration court ruled on Sunday to release a foreign worker and her 12-year-old son, born in Israel, from a detention facility pending a final decision on whether they will be allowed to remain here.

A date for the final hearing has not yet been set, nor has the court in which the hearing will take place been determined.

It is believed that there are currently some 100 children of foreign workers born in Israel who are at risk of being deported with their children since their work visas have expired.

Last Sunday, Ofrecina (Precy) Cuenca and her 12-year-old son Michael James were arrested at their home in Yehud, while Geraldine Esta and her children, Kathryn, 5, and Khean, 10, were arrested last Tuesday due to the expiration of Geraldine’s work visa.

In 2016, the Interior Ministry passed regulations stipulating that if a woman residing in Israel as a foreign worker gives birth, she either has to send the child back to her country of origin or leave the country herself.

The ministry began a crackdown last year against such women and their children, ordering them either to leave immediately or stay until the end of the school year and then leave.

Cuenca and Esta stayed, but the ministry is now seeking to enforce its policy of removing these families, which led to them being detained last week at the Yahalom detention facility at Ben-Gurion Airport.

It is unclear why they were targeted specifically.

The Immigration Detention Review Tribunal ruled on Sunday to release Cuenca and her son until appeal proceedings in the Interior Ministry are completed.

Esta and her children remain detained at the Yahalom detention center. A ruling on their release is expected later this week.

Children born in Israel to non-citizens are themselves illegal aliens, according to Israeli law.

Beth Franco, an activist in the United Children of Israel organization and herself a foreign worker with a child facing deportation, said that such children know nothing apart from living in Israel, speak Hebrew as their first, and sometimes only language, and feel fully Israeli.
She said that she and many like her have lived in Israel for many years, work as caregivers for the elderly, and should be allowed to remain in the country with their children.

“I say to the Israeli government, you have children,” Franco told The Jerusalem Post. “You want the best for your children and have dreams for them. Please let these children too fulfil their dreams here in Israel. Open your hearts. They are ready to serve [in the IDF] and to be good citizens. They love being part of Israeli society. They are Israeli in every respect. Please try and accept them.”

According to the Interior Ministry, there are more than 100,000 legal foreign workers and close to 17,000 illegal foreign workers currently in Israel. There are also more than 66,000 foreign citizens in the country whose tourist visas have expired, the overwhelming majority of whom – nearly 70% – are from the former Soviet Union, and who the Interior Ministry believes to be working here illegally.

The Interior Ministry declined to comment on the decision on Sunday, or on whether the ministry was indeed increasing enforcement against foreign workers with Israel-born children.
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