EVERYONE is Making Trauma Worse for Philippine Kids in Israel
A few days ago, Kian’s classmates (one of the Philippine children scheduled for deportation this summer) demonstrated in front of the airport detention center in which he was being held. They shouted out against the deportation with cries of:
“I am an Israeli child. Do not deport me.”
From the interviews with his classmates, it is clear that they have no idea why their 10-year-old friend is being sent back to his homeland. They are sure that he is Israeli just because he was born in Israel, speaks Hebrew and feels Israeli. This is consistent with what Philippine children say in other news reports concerning their impending deportation, the teenagers among them sure that they would enlist in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) along with their Israeli friends. Kian’s lawyer also tells viewers that Kian is Israeli because he was born here.
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon continues the charade, saying that he will propose a law that anyone who receives a work visa in Israel will also receive residency status. I doubt (hope) there is no chance this would pass.
The Children of Foreign Workers Are Not Israeli
In fact, their mothers signed contracts at the outset clearly stating that should they become pregnant their visas will be revoked and they will be sent home. While visas were revoked, the pregnant women somehow have been able to remain in Israel as illegal economic migrants, some for well over a decade.
The mothers work for cash, do not pay taxes, and do not contribute to social security nor are they able to collect should something happen. I wonder if they have medical insurance. Who covered the childbirth expenses, for example? I wonder how they were allowed to register their children for school, and I suppose that our taxes are paying for their education.
The Guilty Parties
First and foremost, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior is guilty, but not for sending them home now. They should have deported the Filipinas while they were still pregnant. It is incomprehensible why the Ministry did not follow the law, nor why they did not honour the clause in the contract stipulating immediate deportation, a clause likely insisted upon by the Ministry itself. Were they just too lazy?
Secondly, the mothers, themselves, are guilty for having laid the groundwork for the current trauma of the deportation. Why did they not speak to their children in their own language? The Philippine mothers have only themselves to blame for the fact their kids are fluent in Hebrew only.
Did they not tell their children that they are here illegally and living in Israel on borrowed time? Did they not tell their children that one day the bubble might burst and they would be sent back to the Philippines? Did they not ensure that relationships with the extended family back home are strong, stronger than the family of friends they developed in Israel (speaking Filipino would have been important here)? With Skype there is no excuse for this.
The mothers are also guilty for encouraging the evident sense of entitlement and victimization in the kids today. I can understand how upset they are, mothers and kids both, but a response more considerate of the needs of their kids would have been to tell the children something like:
“We got to stay here X years more than we were actually allowed to stay. We had amazing experiences, made wonderful friends, and got to send more money back home to the family. You have a great basic education that nobody can take away from you. But our time has run out and we must go back home to the challenges we will face there. It will not be easy. We will cry and mourn the loss of our Israeli life. But we will cope together and get through it together.
We should thank Israel for an incredible X years.”
The third guilty party includes the school teachers and Board of Education, the non-government organizations supporting the supposed rights of illegal economic migrants, and others (such as MK Gilon) who are substantiating the argument that these kids are Israeli because they were born on Israeli soil. They are suggesting that it is inhumane to send them back to the Philippines.
Instead of echoing the entitlement and victimization, these professionals and organizations should be telling the Filipino mothers and children that Israel was glad to host them and provide them with an enduring experience, but it is time for them to go home. They should wish them a smooth re-entry into their homeland and express the hope that their Israeli experience will have provided them with tools and resources that will ensure their success there. THAT would be the humane thing to do.
Tourist Visas, Temporary Work Visas, Student Visas
Millions of people around the world enter countries not their own for various reasons. When the terms of the visa have ended, they are expected to go back home. Unless they can prove a legitimate need for asylum, they have to go home. It is a criminal offence to overstay a visa.
As a university student in Canada, I made many friends from around the world. Some of my fellow students were married and gave birth to children while there. There was no question that they would be going home at the completion of their degrees. These children spoke their native languages in the home, and were aware of their temporary status. At the same time, it was not easy for them to say goodbye to their schoolmates, to their Canadian way of life, and set off for a home that seemed almost as foreign to them as to me. In fact, many of them were afraid of the unknown life ahead of them.
It makes me wonder how it is that Israel is seen as such a softie such that the Philippine illegal economic migrants can be so sure that playing on our heart strings will make us let them stay here forever. It is not good for us to be unable to clearly define our boundaries and stick to them. And it is not good for them to raise children who feel entitled — and victimized if we do not give in.
This op-ed was originally posted in Israel National News on 26 July 2019.