Thousands rallied in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, August 6, to protest the deportation of Israel-born children of Filipino workers. Among the demonstrators were several activists of Hadash and the Young Communist League. Authorities this summer have been working to deport some 50 children of foreign workers born in Israel. The Interior Ministry maintains that the children are in the country “illegally because their mothers have overstayed their visas.”
Among those speaking at the rally were children slated for deportation, including 10-year-old Khean Esta. Last week, a court rejected an appeal seeking to block authorities from deporting him, his sister and his Filipino mother who remained in Israel illegally after her visa expired.
“Maybe you saw me on TV when they took me from my home. They broke the window and the door. It was very scary. We did nothing wrong to anyone. They put my sister, my mother and me in jail. We were there for a long time. About a week, which was unpleasant for me,” Esta said.
“I’m an Israeli,” Esta continued. “I don’t understand why they want to deport me. I did not do anything. I have always been in Israel and I really love Israel. I love all my friends. Why take kids from their house, put them in jail, and deport them? Please help us.”
On Tuesday morning, Immigration Authority inspectors arrested a Filipina worker and her 13-year-old son in preparation for deporting them. The boy was born in Israel. Rosemarie Perez and her son Rohan were arrested in a raid on their Tel Aviv home and were taken to the Immigration Authority detention center near the Beit Dagan junction, east of Tel Aviv.
Friends of Perez said that she had been working in the country for over 20 years. The United Children of Israel, which was established by Filipino mothers, stated that they believe the arrest was intended to deter mothers and children from attending a demonstration scheduled for the same evening against deportations in the plaza outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
“For a week, no one was arrested and we feel that maybe they are arresting people before the demonstration to intimidate us and cause us to cancel it,” an earlier statement by the United Children of Israel said. “We are afraid, but they will not make us stop the protest,” the statement continued. “We are fighting to prevent the deportation because we believe with all our hearts that they are Israeli children and cannot be deported from their homes. We are doing our best to guarantee the welfare of our children every day.”
Nearly 1,500 children of Filipina workers are enrolled in the Israeli educational system, according to statistics reportedly provided by the Education Ministry to Haaretz. Although they were born in Israel and many of them speak only Hebrew, the children do not have legal status in the country. Mothers have been sent documents saying that they will be deported in July or August.
In July, the Interior Ministry sought to implement the first deportation order given to a mother and her Israeli-born child. Immigration authorities arrested Ofresina Koanka and her 12-year-old son, Michael James, who were slated for deportation. They were released a week later on orders issued by an Israeli custody tribunal judge, and a hearing regarding their deportation is expected to be held next week.