If you swapped out a few names and locations you might mistake this story for one that could be taking place in the United States on any given day. It’s from the Washington Post and it deals with illegal immigrants, many of whom arrived as children but are now being told they need to leave the country or be evicted by force. But it’s not taking place in California, New Mexico or Texas. This is Israel.
The illegals in question are largely from Sudan and Eritrea. Thousands of them are being given the choice of accepting a one-time cash payment to help them relocate, being sent to either Uganda or Rwanda, or being sent home. The only other alternative is jail.
Israel began handing out the first deportation orders to Africans earlier this year. The government is scheduled next month to relocate the first of 38,000 Sudanese and Eritrean migrants, who entered Israel illegally in many cases more than six years ago. Israel had said it wouldn’t deport women and children — for now.
For hundreds like Godin, who have graduated from the Israeli education system, speak Hebrew and know little of their home countries, a deportation order could turn their lives upside down. They are Israel’s “dreamers.”
“We have to keep them,” urged Eli Nechama, a Tel Aviv school principal who is campaigning on their behalf. “They will be amazing, amazing citizens here in Israel.”
Just as in the United States there are groups on both sides of this issue. Some don’t want the burden of keeping all of these migrants around and paying for their needs. (Some are actually refugees from war-torn areas, but the government identifies many of them as simply being illegal immigrants who came looking for jobs.) Others insist that the migrants have been there for a long time and it’s unfair to send them back to nations they barely know. Sound familiar?
It’s a bit more problematic for Israel, particularly when you consider that the illegal aliens are almost all from Africa. The Israelis have something of a spotted history when it comes to dealing with black people inside their country. A huge scandal broke out in 2012 over the treatment of black Jews who emigrated to Israel from Ethiopia. Even though they were technically welcomed as Jewish refugees and offered citizenship, it was later discovered (and admitted by the government) that state doctors had been injecting the Ethiopian women with contraceptives without their knowledge or consent. It seems that some in the Israeli government were okay with the idea of black Jews in theory but really didn’t want them reproducing in the homeland.
It will be interesting to see how Israel deals with this situation going forward. Their government is definitely a democracy of sorts, but not everyone has the same rights there, particularly if you’re not Jewish. How they handle this will set a precedent for many similar questions to come given how the entire region is struggling with issues relating to refugees and migrants of all sorts.