Tonight hundreds--if not thousands--will march in Tel Aviv to protest the deportation of migrant workers' children.
After a year-long battle over the children's fate, the Israeli government recently approved criteria that will make 800 eligible for naturalization, leaving another 400 vulnerable to expulsion, along with their parents. Critics of the plan say that not only is the deportation inhumane-- and a violation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which Israel signed-- many kids will fall through the bureaucratic cracks. This will dramatically reduce the number of those who will get to stay and add hundreds to the number of those will be deported.
For example, there are 17 families--with 30 children between them--that will fall through the cracks because they came in on the "wrong" visas. With jobs lined up at embassies, they came on tourist visas and then, with the help of their employers, changed their status. Arriving from the Philippines in the early 1990s, a few with toddlers, their children now range in age from 8 to 25.
In 2005, when opened a window to migrant workers' children, these families applied. But, despite the fact that their children met all of the criteria, the state turned them away. Why? Only children of illegal residents were eligible for naturalization, they were told. Because they held work permits, they didn't make the cut.
Now, it turns out, they were the "wrong" kind of legal. They face expulsion to the Philippines, a country many of their children have never visited. Torn from their homes, these Israeli-born children-- many of whom are older than others who are being naturalized-- will be forced to grapple with a culture and language they don't know.
Although the odds are now stacked against them, one of these families is forging ahead with an application for residency nonetheless. To strengthen their case, they asked me to write a letter of support. Omitting their names, I am publishing the English translation here as an open letter of protest to the Israeli government:
I am writing this letter to give my support to the Del Rosario family.
In the year that has passed, I have gotten to know them very well. The parents are good people that honor Israel and teach their children to love the country. As practicing Christians, they feel a strong connection to the land and the Jewish people. Like many Filipinos, they feel it is an honor to live here.
Their children, aged 15 and 9, were born here from love and have grown to love this country. They are completely Israeli. I have visited them in their home, we've been together at parties and other events, and I saw, with my own eyes, that they speak Hebrew, they play in Hebrew, and I am sure that this is the language that they dream in. They love Israel--their home, our home--and they celebrate all of the Jewish holidays. It is very important to their parents that they will know Israeli and Jewish culture. Accordingly, it is important to me that Israel will give them the respect they deserve and that they give us.
In the time that has passed, I have become very close with the De Rosarios. They care for me and treat me as though I am part of their family. Similarly, we must care for them and treat them as though they are part of our family.
To do so is also to honor the history of the Jewish people... during the Shoah (Holocaust), the Philippines opened their doors to the Jews. Because of their strong connection to the Jewish people, they saved more than 1000 Jews. And it's worth reminding you that they wanted to allow more Jews to come to Philippines--there was even a discussion of giving one of their islands to us--but the war prevented this.
Israel must remember our debt. And Israel must honor the Filipino people as they honored us. I can't think of a family more worthy of respect than the De Rosarios, a family that will enrich our state.
As a citizen, I am signing this letter in the hope that Israel will make the right decision, that Israel will walk the road of honor.