About 1,000 students, parents and teachers protested outside Givon Prison near Tel Aviv Oct. 31, demanding the release of two Israeli-born Filipino students and their mothers who were slated for deportation. The students, some wearing scout uniforms, chanted “Don’t expel our friends.”
The next day Gena Antigo, 13, her mother Berly Antigo, Ralph Harel, 10, and his mother Maureen Mariano were released on bail. Both Gena and Ralph are members of the scouts. The immigration agency “is still aiming to deport them, but tonight they will not be sleeping behind bars. A moment of pure joy,” stated United Children of Israel, a group of Filipina women organized to stop the deportations of their Israeli-born children.
There are some 60,000 foreign caregivers in Israel, most with five-year visas, including 30,000 from the Philippines. Their visas are revoked if they get married or if they get pregnant, unless they send their children back to the mother’s country of origin. At least 6,000 Filipinos have overstayed their visas.
The local Parent Teacher Association helped organize the protest. “The parents heard about what was happening from their children. The parents say our children are the same as their children. They want them to be together,” Beth Franco, a leader of the group, told the Militant by phone from Tel Aviv Nov. 4. “Without the support of so many Israelis we could not have moved forward. Many Israelis have opened their hearts to the foreign workers who stay with them. They have our back.”
Franco came to Israel in 1999 and has a 12-year-old daughter. Her visa expired years ago. “This is the only country our children know,” she says. “They speak Hebrew. They celebrate Israel independence day.”
Among the protesters was Zeev Degani, principal of Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium school, who came with 400 students. Joining the protest is “the most important education that students can get,” he told Kan TV News.