Last Tuesday, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned a provision of a law that allowed the keeping of illegal immigrants to Israel in a detention center up to 20 months without trial, calling it a “disproportionate” period.
At the same time, the Supreme Court upheld the “anti-infiltration law” the Israeli government had enacted.
This ruling didn’t solve the problem of illegal immigration to Israel.
If anything, it only highlighted the gravity of the issue and the fact that there were no easy solutions to it.
Never miss a local story.
Illegal immigration to Israel has become a big issue in recent years.
It is estimated that close to 50,000 asylum seekers and other immigrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, live in Israel illegally.
Most of them live in the poor neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv, generating fierce protests from the local Israeli residents, who complain about rising crime and violence.
At the same time, the children of these illegal immigrants go to schools and sometimes join the ranks of the Israeli Defense Forces, only to hear that their parents received a deportation order.
This complex, indeed sad, situation leaves the public perplexed. A glimpse into the newspapers, following the court’s decision, demonstrates that vividly.
Official spokesman for the government expressed satisfaction at the ruling, saying that it would “advance public safety and bring greater accountability to our immigration system.”
Opponents of the government had different views. “You want to stanch the flow,” one of them said of the illegal immigrants, even before the court’s ruling, “You go find ’em, you pick ’em up and you send ’em back where they’re from.”
Human-rights activists who had perhaps expected the court might legalize the status of illegal immigrants, thus solving the problem once and for all, were disappointed: “All the people who would have benefited would have to continue with an illegal status and live with all the anxiety and victimization that comes with that.”
Needless to say, residents living in neighborhoods taken over by the illegal immigrants were fuming by the court’s decision.
And the controversy goes on, with no magic solutions in sight.
By the way, all the quotes above were taken not from the Israeli newspapers, but rather from the American ones, and with the exception of the statement of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (“You go find ’em”), they were the responses to the recent ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona couldn’t sue the Obama administration to halt Mr. Obama’s amnesty on deporting illegal immigrants.
Indeed, most developed countries now face the surge of illegal immigrants either running away from persecution or war, or — more likely — aspiring to earn money that will rescue them and their families from hunger, poverty and deprivation.
Each country struggles in its own way with the challenge of balancing universal human values with the maintaining of law and order and the preservation of the particular national fabric.
Some countries try “politics of hostility”, turning the immigrants away by making their stay unbearable.
At the same time Hungary, which received more illegal immigrants per capita in Europe except for Sweden, is planning to build a 13-foot high fence along the 110-mile border with Serbia, where most of the “infiltrators” come from.
It may be too little too late, as Viktor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, declared: “The face of European civilization...will never again be what it is now. There is no way back from a multicultural Europe. Neither to a Christian Europe, nor to the world of national cultures.”
Israel has built an effective fence on its border with Egypt, which almost stopped the infiltration of illegal immigrants entirely.
The question, though, is what to do with those who remain in Israel. Here, Israelis should look for a clue not to Europe, but to the United States.
Only time will tell what will eventually happens with the administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) programs, temporarily blocked because of a court order.
This is, however, a bold attempt to deal seriously with a reality where, according to a recent Pew survey, 11.3 million people — 3.5 percent of the population of the United States — are illegal immigrants. Furthermore, 8.1 million of them are currently participating in the labor force, making up 5.1 percent of it.
Whether the debate in the United States will culminate in sending “ ’em back where they’re from,” or with more examples like Huntington Park, which has just become the first city in California to appoint two undocumented immigrants as commissioners on city advisory boards, this is the real game to watch to gain insights.