In a 6-1 ruling on Wednesday, Israel’s Supreme Court overturned a Knesset law penalizing foreign workers, who illegally overstay their Israeli work visas.
The court’s ruling, that the “deposit law” was unfair to the law-breaking foreign workers, drew stiff criticism from Yariv Levin, the minister of justice, who called it a reflection of “extreme progressive values.”
“This ruling gives a green light to tens of thousands of foreign workers to violate the terms of their visa with no problem and stay in Israel against the law,” he said.
“If anyone had any doubt why there’s a need for profound reform in the judicial system, he received the answer again today in another ruling that encourages illegal immigration to Israel while harming the demographic composition and Jewish identity of the country,” Levin added.
According to the “deposit law,” employers must transfer a portion of foreign workers’ salaries to a bank account, which is turned over to the employees after they leave the country.
Employees who overstay their visas cede a portion of that money — proportionate to the amount of time they overstay — with the entire amount being in jeopardy after six months, per the law.
That deterrent unduly harms a worker’s right to property and is thus “unconstitutional,” said the seven-judge high court panel, under Supreme Court President Esther Hayut. (Israel does not have a Constitution, as the United States does.)
The majority noted that the defense presented no evidence of another country with such a policy, adding that the law denied workers rights.
“There is no justification for ruling the law invalid,” Justice Noam Solberg wrote for the minority.
“Every foreigner authorized to work in Israel knows very well that the ’employer’s share’ waits for him in the deposit account until he leaves the country,” he said. “This arrangement causes each and every foreign worker in Israel to think about the meaning of not leaving the country on time.”