Govt. Decree: 2 of 3 Children of Foreign Workers to Stay
The government announced Sunday that 800 children of foreign workers will be allowed to remain in Israel, while another 400 will be deported. The decision followed months of deliberation, during which an inter-ministerial committee determined the final criteria by which children will stay in Israel or not.
Many foreign workers who entered Israel legally either brought young children with them or gave birth once in the country. When their visas expired they argued that their children, who in some cases have lived in Israeli since birth, deserve to remain in the country they have come to call home.
According to the new criteria, children will be allowed to remain in Israel if their parents entered the country legally, they were born in Israel or arrived in the country before the age of 13 and have lived in Israel for five years continuously, they learned in the Israeli school system in the most recent academic year and are registered to continue their studies in the 2010-2011 year, and they speak Hebrew.
Sunday's decision was met with criticism on both sides of the political spectrum. Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said, “A state that deports children – this is not the Jewish state that I know.”
He also expressed concern over public relations issues that may arise, saying, “This isn't the time for the world to see the state of Israel deporting 400 children.”
Interior Minister Eli Yishai condemned the decision as too lenient, saying the cabinet had allowed foreign workers to “pull one over on the government.”
MK Yaakov “Ketzaleh” Katz, who heads the Knesset's Committee on Foreign Workers, dismissed the issue as “spin.” According to Katz, the issue of foreign workers' children is used by those who want to see Israel become “a state of all its citizens” instead of a Jewish state. “The 'children spin' can't hide the facts: 15,000 illegal entrants are making their way into Israel each year,” he added.
The organizations that fought for the workers' children to remain in Israel instead of being deported in accordance with citizenship laws were unsatisfied by the latest ruling. “We're happy to see that the government made the moral decision to give these children legal status in their home,” said a statement from the group Israeli Children, “but we call to show the same morality toward those who may fall between the cracks.”