The Shmooze

Embassy PSA to Young Israelis: Don't Risk Illegal Work in the US

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Replete with testimonies from witnesses with digitally altered appearances and electronically disguised voices, it’s a cross between a true crime show and Scared Straight. No, it’s not the latest reality TV show out of Hollywood. It’s a video called “The Price is Too High” made by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to warn young Israelis against trying to work illegally in the United States.

In the 12-minute film, a U.S. embassy employee is seen and heard admitting that it took a while for the authorities in his country to become aware of the thousands of young Israelis working illegally at kiosks and carts in suburban shopping malls. However, now that the U.S. has gotten wise to the phenomenon, it is cracking down on the companies that scam the young Israelis and busting the Israelis themselves as they try to pass Immigration and Customs at the airport.

Any Israeli wishing to enter the U.S. must first be issued a visa. Tourists may stay in the U.S. for three months. Similarly, B1 and B2 visa holders may visit and attend business meetings. Holders of these two types of visas — the ones the young Israelis obtain — may not legally seek employment or be paid for work while in the U.S.

Interspersed with explanations from Israel-based U.S. officials as to why post-army service men and women should not fall for the promises made by the companies that run the kiosks are testimonies from about ten young Israelis who were duped and caught. They describe with embarrassment and regret how they believed the companies’ sweet talk, got caught at the border and are now banned from entering the U.S. for many years — and in some cases forever.

The scariest points in the video are made by a consular official and by a doctoral student at Ben-Gurion University named Yoni. The official wants to make abundantly clear to Israelis that should they be arrested while trying to enter the U.S. with the intent to work illegally, they will be imprisoned with regular hardened and violent criminals. There are no cushy accommodations for immigration law violators. Yoni, now married with two children and completing his graduate studies in ecology, has been banned from the U.S. for life — something that puts a definite crimp in his career advancement prospects.

From the comments made by several former kiosk workers in a Ynet article about the video campaign, it appears that effort may not stand a chance in the face of the characteristic Israeli bravado. Those who did not get caught see no reason why nice young Jewish men and women, looking to earn lots of fast cash to finance their post-army travel or future university education, should be prohibited from putting in long hours at the shopping malls. Some readers who commented on the article also questioned why the Department of Homeland Security is focused on a few thousand industrious IDF veterans when it has much more pressing issues (international terrorists and massive illegal immigration from Mexico, for instance) to deal with right now.

Watch ‘Illegal Work in the US: Price is Too High!’:


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