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.
I’ve known over a dozen Filipina caregivers working here in Israel.
Everyone of them was treated with respect, and all were well paid, and that goes for the illegals as well.
The Filipinas in Israel are sophisticated and will help each other navigate the Israeli bureacracy, and, they know the consequences of running afoul of Israel’s laws.
Every Filipino, at one point, promised the State of Israel that they would leave Israel once their work visas expired.
Some, chose to break the promise.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Benyamin: This is along the lines of: “some of my best friends are Negroes…”
I wonder whether you’d feel the same way about German Jewish refugees who fled to European countries, if they too were expelled for little more than trying to survive and earn a bare living. Of course you wouldn’t. You don’t have a care in the world for people in the world who are denied the benefits you enjoy. Because you’re sitting pretty as a privileged Israeli who can deign to declare Filipinos should be happy with their lot and gratefully accept the crumbs they receive from your table. And then meekly return to the impoverished existence in the Philipines. Ah the Israel noblesse oblige of it all!
The Filipina who cared for my mother earned enough money in seven years to by a house in the Philippines.
She had paid holidays and vacation time. She received social security benefits in accordance with the law, free health care, etc.
As for Ms Cuencas, her son got free health care and an education while he lived in Israel with his mother, all, on the dime of the Israeli taxpayer.
Now that the time for her to go home has passed, she is receiving due process and free legal representation.
Let’s leave African Americans and Holocaust refugees out of this, and just stick to the facts.
Just as an aside, most of the home care aides that are replacing the Filipinas, are coming from Sri Lanka and India.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Benyamin: As someone pointed out recently, it’s in Israel’s interest to bring in migrant workers, keep them for a period of time, then boot them out. There is money to be made by placement firms who hire these people and get enormous fees in return. Given the level of corruption endemic in Israel there’s little doubt that the government bureaucrats in Deri’s ministry are benefiting financially from facilitating this industry.
It’s laughable when anti-refugee xenophobes like you argue that migrant workers are freeloaders who suck Israel dry and offer little except their own labor in return. These people, to the extent they’re allowed to participate in the legal economy, pay taxes and are little different than citizens in fulfilling their obligations (except their children do not serve in the army, unless the state allows them to become citizens).
Studies of migrant workers in the U.S. show that they contribute more financially to this country than they demand in services in return. I’m certain the same is true of Israel.
Migrant workers do NOT receive due process. That’s precisely the point of my post, which you’ve conveniently omitted. They’re forced into signing coercive “agreements,” which offer them no choice. When they’re in the midst of appealing their expulsion and expulsions should be frozen, the police bundle them on planes and return them to their home countries. That is not due process. That is the hallmark of a national security state, and a xenophobic one at that.
As for the comparison to Jewish refugees. Refugees are refugees. There are 50,000 African refugees in Israel. Their abysmal treatment at the hands of your government is despicable and shows the worst of your country to the world. So you bet I’m going to point that out. While the Cuencas came to Israel for economic reasons, they mistreatment is part of the same process that all refugees face, including Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis.
If you don’t like the comparison, then treat all foreigners in Israel with respect and according to international norms. If you don’t, you will “suffer” such comparisons.
You are done in this thread. Do not post in it again.
Jaboc Tzvi says
[comment deleted: I began to write a response to this comment, but then realized it was a Jewish (or Judean, since I don’t consider this “Jewish”) version of Nazi racial purity. I cannot permit Jewish race pride here just as i cannot permit white, or even Arab race pride (if such a thing exists)]