Two articles published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz today offer an interesting study in contrasts.
Israel Admits: We’re Incapable of Forcing Out All 40,000 Asylum Seekers
Interior Minister Arye Dery acknowledged Monday that Israel cannot force the departure of all asylum seekers from Africa, who number upwards of 40,000.
“Even if problems with third countries are resolved we won’t be able to remove all the infiltrators. There is a certain amount with whom I’ll know how to contend and divide up. Right now it’s too large a mass for us,” said Dery on Monday in an interview with on Army Radio.
Dery reiterated that Israel was trying to amend the agreements reached with third countries so that the consent of deportees is no longer required before they are sent to those countries. In the meantime, the Population and Immigration Authority is promoting an amendment to the law regulating entry into Israel, which would allow the indefinite detention of asylum seekers who refuse to go to Rwanda or Uganda. The Supreme Court has restricted the incarceration of people refusing to leave to two months.
Dery criticized the Supreme Court’s decision. “We hid nothing from the Court. The Court sent us back and forth several times and received the outline of our agreement with third countries, who expressly knew that we were not taking people to airplanes in handcuffs and that people refusing to go would remain under guardianship here until they consented to leave. These countries and the Court knew this, so I’m surprised that they ignored this point,” he said.
In response to a question of whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was surprised by what he saw on a visit to south Tel Aviv, Dery replied in the affirmative several times. The two toured the area in a car with dark-tinted windows, guided by people from the Population and Immigration Authority. This was Netanyahu’s second visit there within a span of several days. In his first eight years in office he had not been there once.
Dery: In south Tel Aviv, ‘you hardly see any Israeli out at night’
“When you see the atmosphere there, on a pleasant day with everyone outdoors, it’s nice to see,” said Dery. “But when you look at the buildings and streets and you know what Neve Sha’anan, Levinsky and HaGdud HaIvri Streets and the park used to look like, everything has been wiped out. You hardly see any Israeli in the dark hours and it wasn’t even that late. You see those families and their children. When you hear police reports on what goes on there at night and you realize that Tel Aviv residents still live there, Israelis and Jews who found a place for themselves there. Why are they to blame?”
Dery voiced some veiled criticism at his Shas rival Eli Yishai, who was interior minister between 2009 and 2013, when most African asylum seekers entered Israel. “I really don’t know who put them on buses after they crossed the fence on the border with Egypt, bringing them to Tel Aviv. Who decided to bring them there, of all places? Who decided to place them among the weakest population and destroy its way of life and its neighborhoods? The issue of who made this cruel and foolish decision should be looked into. I opposed it when I saw it,” he said.
The new director-general of the Population and Immigration Authority, Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, who assumed his post last month, said in an interview to Reshet Bet radio that it might be possible to deal with the asylum seekers in Israel, but if conditions are eased many others might come. “On a personal level and as an option that’s on the table, of course it’s an option. Ultimately one could say that there is a certain number here and further entry has been blocked, so let’s deal with these 40,000 people. This is a limited problem which could have a solution. But what if 20,000 others arrive?” he asked. “What happens when they see that the state can live with that, saying OK, keep on coming? That’s why such a decision is not on the agenda now. No one is raising this as a possibility. Now we want to minimize the numbers of illegal infiltrators in Israel.”
U.S. Jewish Groups Blast Trump’s Decision to Scrap ‘Dreamers’ Program as ‘Cruel, Unnecessary’
Leading Jewish American organizations criticized the Trump administration’s decision on Tuesday to end the immigration policy known as DACA, and said they would work to challenge the decision and put pressure on Congress to keep the program in place.
The Anti-Defamation League said in a statement issued shortly after the administration announced its decision, that U.S. President Donald Trump’s action is “cruel, unnecessary and inconsistent with the core values of our country.”
The organization also said it supports “an immigration policy that is comprehensive, protects our security, reunites families and improves our economy while honoring our values as a nation of immigrants. We support a bipartisan effort to protect these young immigrants through legislative action and renew our call on Congress to act now.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the organization’s CEO, said that “we are a nation of immigrants. The lives of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought to this country as children now hang in the balance. They are some of our best and brightest. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, and members of the military. They are our neighbors, our friends, and members of our communities. They came out of the shadows, relying on a promise from the federal government that they would be protected. Now they are in danger.”
Mark Hetfield, the head of HIAS, a Jewish nongovernmental organization that works to help immigrants and refugees, said in response that America “must restore basic fairness and morality to the way we treat immigrants in this country, and there is no better place to start than with these young Americans.
“Like generations of immigrants before, including millions of Jewish parents and grandparents, the parents of these kids have made enormous sacrifices, not for themselves, but in the hope that their children would have a chance at a real future. The president has likely put the American dream out of reach for countless people today,” Hetfield said.
The Jewish Reform Movement also attacked the decision on Tuesday. In a statement released by the movement’s Religious Action Center, Rabbi Jonah Pesner said that “as Jews, our people have known the experience of being ‘strangers in strange lands.’ Our past reminds us of the struggles faced by so many immigrants today. Because of this history, Judaism demands that we welcome the stranger and compels us to work for a just immigration system.”
The statement also said that “It is imperative that Congress step up in support of these young people who grew up in the United States and who want to give back to the only country they know as home. We call on Congress to protect DACA recipients from deportation by immediately passing a clean bipartisan Dream Act of 2017 – and on the president to support it.”
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights said it was “outraged” about the decision. “We understand the cruelty of forcing Dreamers back to the countries where they were born, but in many cases have never lived, and where — in some cases — their lives will be in danger,” the group said in a statement.
It added that the organization launched a Jewish sanctuary movement this year in order to “protect immigrants threatened with deportation,” which nearly 60 synagogues across the United States have joined. The network is “committed to activate to protect Dreamers if Congress does not act to protect DACA, and if [the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] begins targeting Dreamers,” said the statement.
“The Jewish community has a long history of active engagement in supporting new immigrants and developing our nation’s immigration policy,” it said. “We believe that Congress must enact a permanent solution and we call on lawmakers to act immediately to protect immigrant youth by passing … bipartisan legislation that would replace fear and uncertainty with permanent protection.
“Our government made a promise to protect these young people who were brought to this country as children, who know no other country but the United States, and who seek only to live and work without fear,” said David Bernstein, the organization’s president and CEO. “It is both our civic and moral duty to uphold that promise.”