Washington — More than 100 congressional Democrats on Wednesday urged the Biden administration to shield Palestinian immigrants living in the U.S. from deportation, given thein the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas militants.
The 103 Democratic senators and representatives asked President Biden to authorize a program that would allow Palestinians living in the U.S. without permanent legal status to gain deportation protections and work permits. The lawmakers did not advocate for policies that would facilitate the entry of additional Palestinian refugees overseas.
"In light of ongoing armed conflict, Palestinians already in the United States should not be forced to return to the Palestinian territories, consistent with President Biden's stated commitment to protecting Palestinian civilians," the Democratic lawmakers wrote in their letter, which was led by Sen. Dick Durbin and Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Jan Schakowsky.
More than 1,400 Israelis, most of them civilians, were killed, and more than 200 were kidnapped during a series of brutal attacks on Oct. 7 by Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that has governed Gaza since 2007. Since Israel started its retaliatory attacks and ground incursion, which the government in Tel Aviv has said targets militants, more than 10,500 people have been killed in Gaza, according to its local Hamas-led health ministry.
The group of congressional Democrats specifically referenced two policies that the Biden administration could use to protect Palestinians in the U.S. from deportation: Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, and Deferred Enforced Departure, or DED.
TPS allows the Department of Homeland Security to make immigrants eligible for deportation protections and work permits if their home countries are facing certain crises, such as an armed conflict or an environmental disaster. The Biden administration has used TPS at an unprecedented scale to grant temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of migrants from countries like Afghanistan, Haiti, Ukraine and Venezuela.
DED is a similar policy, but is authorized by the president himself through a proclamation, and beneficiaries do not need to apply for the deportation protections offered by it.
Representatives for the DHS and the White House did not immediately comment on the lawmakers' requests.
Notably, Wednesday's letter was not signed by any Republican lawmakers. Republicans in Congress and those running for their party's presidential nomination have raisedto the U.S. welcoming Palestinian refugees, arguing that their culture is not compatible with American values, and that they could be terrorists or Hamas fighters.
The Biden administration, however, has not announced any plans to resettle Palestinian refugees displaced by the ongoing conflict in Gaza. In fact, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has indicated that U.S. policy is focused on Palestinians being able to stay in their homeland.
Moreover, the U.S. historically does not resettle Palestinian refugees in any significant numbers. In fiscal year 2023, when more than 60,000 refugees were resettled by the U.S., the Biden administration admitted just 56 Palestinian refugees, federal data show. The main reason Palestinians are not resettled by the U.S. in large numbers is because they are defined differently than other refugee groups by the United Nations, the main source of refugee referrals to the U.S.
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