Court rejects appeal against deportation of Filipino woman, her Israel-born kids

Geraldine Esta and her 2 children given 45 days to leave the country, as judge agrees to free them on bail; attorney says they plan to petition higher court

Geraldine Esta and her children Khean and Kathryn arrive for a court hearing in Tel Aviv on July 28, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Geraldine Esta and her children Khean and Kathryn arrive for a court hearing in Tel Aviv on July 28, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A court on Tuesday rejected an appeal seeking to block authorities from deporting a Filipino woman who remained in Israel illegally after her visa expired, along with her Israel-born children.

The deportation of foreign workers, whether by agreement or forced, has faced criticism due to the impact it can have on their children who are born in the country, some of whom spend years in the Israeli system.

The Tel Aviv appeals tribunal gave Geraldine Esta and her children, 10-year-old Khean and 5-year-old Kathryn, 45 days to leave the country. It also agreed to release them on bail of NIS 15,000 ($4,285).

Judge Ilan Halabaga said he was giving the family time to tend to its affairs as well as appeal the decision if it wished.

Israeli pupils protest against the deportation of a Filipino worker and her two children outside of the detention facility at Ben Gurion Airport, July 24, 2019. (Flash90)

Esta’s attorney, Ramat Gan council member Haya Mena, said they planned to petition the Tel Aviv District Court to overturn the ruling.

Esta, in Israel for the past 14 years, was arrested last week when immigration agents broke into her Ramat Gan home. Esta has claimed she was never warned or informed she must leave the country.

The Esta case is seen as a test for dozens of other Israeli-born children of illegal foreign workers who have grown up in the Jewish state, call it home and are now facing deportation.

Regulations stipulate that female foreign workers who become pregnant must send their babies home, as a condition for their visas’ renewal. But many fail to do so and stay in the country illegally doing menial jobs, to give their children a better life than they would get in their home country.

Mena sought to have the deportation order against the Estas quashed and permission given to the family to remain in Israel, for humanitarian reasons.

Several public figures have come out against the deportations.

Some 60,000 foreign caregivers — most of them women — are currently employed in Israel, according to the Hotline for Migrant Workers, an advocacy and rights organization. Half of them are from the Philippines, with much smaller numbers from Nepal (15 percent), India, Sri Lanka and Moldova (10% each) and the rest from various Eastern European countries.

So far this year 36 illegal caregivers with Israeli-born children have signed deportation notices promising to go home between July 15 and August 1, including 25 Filipino, two Nepalese, one Indian and one Moldovan.

Ofrecina (Precy) Koanka and her learning disabled son Michael James, known as MJ, aged 12. (Screenshot)

On Sunday an Immigration Detention Review Tribunal agreed to release from lockup a Filipino worker and her learning disabled son, who are in the country illegally, until the Interior Ministry has provided a final response to their request to remain in Israel on humanitarian grounds. Ofrecina (Precy) Koanka and her 12-year-old son Michael James, known as MJ, were arrested last week.

The Israel-born Michael studies in a special education program and was slated to begin seventh grade in the fall. According to an appeal filed by the family’s attorney, Michael’s learning disability means that he will be unable to learn a new language if deported.

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