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Daily Israel Report

PM's Wife Against Immigration Law

Netanyahu's wife asks minister not to enforce immigration law, argues that children are “traumatized” by return to country of origin.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 8/16/2011, 9:27 PM

Foreign worker protest
Foreign worker protest
Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's wife Sarah has been taking an active part in a campaign to let all children of illegal migrants remain in Israel, even if they do not meet government criteria.

The individual illegal migrant child's welfare comes first in the Prime MInister's wife's viewpoint, rather than the possible detrimental long term effects on the makeup of the Jewish state's population, its culture and its schools if those individuals become a sizeable minority.

Her focus now is a four-year-old girl named Ofek, daughter of a woman from the Philippines who is facing deportation after it was discovered that she was in Israel illegally. Sarah Netanyahu sent a letter to Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai on Tuesday insisting that the child and her mother should be allowed to stay in the country.

“This is a child who was born in Israel and educated in Israel. Her first language is Hebrew,” Netanyahu said. She argued that the girl would be traumatized by relocation to the Philippines. “There is a high probability that expulsion would lead to complex psychological trauma and serious stress for Ofek,” she claimed.

That may be so in the short term, said an educational expert consulted by Arutz Sheva English site. "Any Anglo knows that when families come on aliyah to Israel, children, who do not initiate the immigration, and whose first language is English or another foreign language, also undergo stress and trauma, but eventually they acclimatize to the change. Children are very resilient as long as they are in a loving home environment."

Current criteria allow children and their parents to remain in Israel despite having violated immigration law if the child was born in Israel or arrived before the age of 13, has lived in Israel for five consecutive years, has learned in the Israeli school system and is registered to continue, and speaks Hebrew.

Sarah Netanyahu expressed hope that the Ministry of the Interior would demonstrate “generosity” by declining to enforce immigration law in the case of all children learning in the Israeli school system. “I ask you, Eli, to prevent Ofek's deportation and allow her to return to preschool next year,” she concluded.

Minister Yishai takes the long view, citing the negative effects on the school system's curriculum which emphasizes Jewish tradition and on the possibility of increasing intermarriage. He accused foreigners living in Israel illegally of “using [their] children as a shield and as an insurance policy against deportation,” and has argued that claims the children will be traumatized by leaving Israel are “one big show.”

The mainstream media have stressed the suffering of the children slated for deportation and trauma. This sympathy was notably absent for the thousands of children from Gush Katif, expelled traumatically from their homes six years ago with nowhere to go.

“It's time for them to tell their children: Our trip is over, we made a few thousand dollars and now we have to go home,” Yishai said in contrast last year. “No child will end up crying.”