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U.S./World

Israel to deport hundreds of children of migrant workers

| Monday, Aug. 2, 2010

JERUSALEM — Israel moved yesterday to deport the offspring of hundreds of migrant workers, mostly small children who were born in Israel, speak Hebrew and have never seen their parents' native countries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the new policy was intended to stem a flood of illegal aliens, whose children receive state-funded education and health care benefits, and to defend Israel's Jewish identity.

"On the one hand, this problem is a humanitarian problem," Netanyahu said during a meeting yesterday of the cabinet, which had debated the move for nearly a year. "We all feel and understand the hearts of children. But on the other hand, there are Zionist considerations and ensuring the Jewish character of the state of Israel."

"We don't want to create an incentive for the inflow of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrant workers," he said.

Critics, including some government officials, said the decision would punish innocent children by sending them to impoverished or insecure nations that their parents had left in search of better lives in Israel.

The policy is aimed at children of foreign workers who arrived legally and then started families. Under Israeli law, the children were not automatically granted residency status.

About 400 children and their parents are expected to leave Israel during the next month. Another 800 children may qualify to stay and receive residency status if they meet certain requirements such as living for the last five years in Israel and attending grade school.

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