Last month, Israel’s Internal Affairs ministry (the Israeli equivalent of ICE) arrested a Filipino migrant worker (English coverage) and her 12-year-old Israeli-born son, Ophresina and Michael James Cuenca. Officials announced they intended to deport the two back to her birthplace in the Philipines. The boy has special needs, has never been to the Philipines, does not speak Tagalog, and knows little about his mother’s native country. Despite their filing an appeal against the deportation and an additional humanitarian appeal, they were arrested and conveyed to detention facilities at Ben Gurion Airport. They remained there for a week and eventually were released after paying a $4,000 bail fee.
Unfortunately, this is only one of tens of such cases of female Filipino workers snatched up by authorities. A total of 1,500 are in danger of being deported. When the ministry began the deportation campaign last October, it gave the foreign workers a choice: either agree to leave Israel at the end of the academic year (so children can finish their current school grade) or face immediate detention with the intent of deportation. Naturally, many chose to agree to self-deport. In all these cases, the only country the children have known is Israel. They speak Hebrew, attend Israeli schools, celebrate Israeli holidays, etc.
An Israeli NGO fighting on behalf of such foreign workers even launched an appeal to President Rivlin, asking him to intervene in the proceedings, but he declined.
The current campaign represents a repudiation of a prior government agreement from 2006 in which it agreed to give legal status to foreign workers with children under the following conditions:
- They lived and worked in Israel for the past six years
- They [the children] arrived in Israel before the age of 14
- Their parents arrived in Israel legally
- They studied in state schools and spoke Hebrew
The trashing of the prior agreement represents the increasing cruelty of Israel’s right-wing regime. The longer Netanyahu’s regime lasts the more brutal and heartless it becomes. Especially concerning non-Jews, who are the equivalent of untermenschen.
It’s worth noting that these foreign workers occupy critical roles in the Israeli workforce. Many of them are sole caregivers for elderly, frail Israelis whose families can no longer provide care for them. Others work in low-skilled service jobs which Israelis themselves refuse to perform.
The NGO called a protest in Tel Aviv against the deportations, at which many facing this fate demonstrated with signs declaring, “I too am Israeli” and “Minister Deri, my fate is in your hands.” It was during the demonstration that the Immigration police arrested the Cuencas.
Activists believe officials deliberately chose to arrest them because they lived outside the city, where they would face no protest or opposition. They also believe the Curencas are being treated as a test case to determine whether the public will push back against these operations. If it doesn’t, then the migrant worker NGOs expect the pace of arrests and deportations to quicken.
All this comes just in time for the September elections, when Deri will be able to tell Israeli Jews that he enforced the Judaization of Israel by deporting non-Jewish “interlopers” who have no business here.
As further proof that the treatment meted out to the Cuencas represents a test case, the ministry has obtained a gag order prohibiting the Israeli media from reporting the names of the boy and his mother. The gag itself is unprecedented since many other families have been similarly deported without their names being stricken from media reporting. What’s even stranger in this case, is that the names of the Cuencas have already been widely reported in Israeli media and the mother agreed to make her story public.
The hidden purpose of the gag order was to permit the judiciary and ministry to move all further legal proceedings behind closed doors. Hence, the public and reporters may not know what happens inside the courtroom; and may not even know about decisions that are made until the deportees are whisked away to a waiting plane and unceremoniously deported.
In a related case, a separate judge ruled that the case of a different Filipino mother and son, who’d already been deported from Israel, was under a similar gag order (see copy). This ruling too defied common sense, since the family’s name and predicament had been widely reported, along with their picture, in Israeli media.
Oddly, there was a hearing in their case before the district court, even though the family had already been deported. The hearing was conducted behind closed doors out of consideration for the welfare of the child (who was no longer in Israel!). In actuality, the ministry sought to cover up the violation of their own regulations in hustling the family out of the country while their legal appeals were still under court consideration.
The ministry released its own statement defending its position. Its reasoning is classic…and obtuse: it says that it didn’t initiate the idea of the gag order, but rather a judge pointed out that there was a minor child involved in the legal proceeding, and that his identity should be protected for that reason. The gag order further noted that it did so out of concern for the child’s “mental state.” A load of utter hogwash.
Apparently, the court couldn’t spare any concern for the poor lad who had already been detained in a holding pen at the airport for an entire week. An activist argued that if the court really had the welfare of the child in mind it wouldn’t deport him from the only home he’d ever known, to a country he’d never lived in or visited. The family’s lawyer argued that this behavior was that of tyrannical regimes, and not democracies as Israel purports to be.
Clearly, the coverage of the case, including pictures of both the mother and son featured in numerous media outlets, indicate the family wanted its plight known, including the names of the victims.
The ministry statement further argued that the appeal of journalists against the gag order was “ridiculous,” since the public’s right to know had not been hampered at all by the gag order. How so? Well, the media had already reported the names so any duty to inform the public was satisfied by prior publication. So goes the logic-free thinking of bureaucrats executing a petty policy that enforces the Judaization of the Israeli nation.
The judges in both these cases were appointed to the bench by none other than Justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, who’s made a point of remaking the Israeli judiciary in her image: more conservative, more Judeo-centric, more friendly to the security state, more of a rubber stamp for the political-security class.