Israel’s Supreme Court overturns law encouraging illegal immigrants to leave the country

Justice Minister castigates Supreme Court after it strikes down law incentivizing visa-overstayers and infiltrators to self-deport.

By World Israel News Staff

Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled 6-1 Wednesday afternoon to overturn a law aimed at encouraging foreign workers whose work visas expired and illegal immigrants who infiltrated into Israel to self-deport from the country.

Under the regulation, passed in 2016, foreign workers and infiltrators living and working in Israel were required to pay into a social welfare account, with a percentage of their monthly earnings deducted automatically by their employers and deposited for their own benefit.

Once their work visa expired – including work permits issued to infiltrators who entered the country illegally – foreign workers and illegal immigrants were required to leave the country or face the loss of their social welfare account.

The rule was adopted by a Knesset committee to address two separate problems facing Israel’s immigration policy: the phenomenon of foreign workers who entered the country with valid work permits overstaying their visas, and infiltrators who entered the country illegally and whose ability to find employment is ambiguous under Israeli law.

Tens of thousands of infiltrators from eastern Africa, primarily Eritrea, Sudan, and Somalia, entered the country in the 2000s and early 2010s. While thousands were later deported or left the country voluntarily, thousands remain in the country.

Most received conditional release visas, permitting them to remain out of custody in the country.

While the visas do not grant infiltrators the legal right to work in Israel, the government pledged to the Supreme Court in 2016 not to enforce the prohibition.

In addition, there are thousands of foreign workers who entered the country legally but overstayed their visas.

In its ruling Tuesday, the court claimed the 2016 rule was disproportionate and as such violated the foreign workers’ constitutional rights.

Israel does not have a constitution, though since the 1990s, the Supreme Court has invoked the state’s Basic Laws as the basis for judicial review.

The court gave the government six months to amend the 2016 rule or face its nullification.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut and five deputy justices formed the majority, while Justice Noam Solberg dissented, arguing that the rights of foreign workers were not violated by the rule since they had agreed to the condition before entering the country.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) excoriated the High Court’s ruling Wednesday, calling it a case of judicial overreach that proves the need for comprehensive reform.

“If anyone had any doubt why there is a need for deep reform in the judicial system, he got the answer again today in another ruling that encourages illegal immigration to Israel while harming the demographic composition and Jewish identity of the country,” he said.

“This ruling gives a green light to tens of thousands of foreign workers to violate the terms of their visa and stay in Israel with no problem against the law.”