Senators express concern over plan to bring Gaza refugees to U.S.

Displaced Palestinians pitch tents next to the Egyptian border with the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 8, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

A group of 35 Republican Senators, including most of the ones from the South, urged the Biden administration not to bring Gaza refugees to the United States, and to focus on bringing American hostages home.

In their letter on May 2, the senators said they are “frustrated that your administration is pushing ahead with a plan to evacuate Gazans from the Strip when there are still American citizens held hostage by Hamas. We demand that your administration cease planning for accepting Gazan refugees until you adequately answer our concerns and focus your attention instead on securing the release of U.S. hostages held by Hamas.”

On April 30, CBS News reported that the Biden administration was considering options for bringing Gazans to the country who have immediate family members who are either American citizens or permanent residents.

One option under discussion is the United States Refugee Admissions Program, whose mission is “to offer resettlement opportunities to persons overseas who are of special humanitarian concern, while protecting national security and combating fraud,” according to the report. The USRAP would be implemented for Gazans who have fled to neighboring Egypt.

Another idea is to assist with getting Gazans with American relatives out of the coastal enclave and processing them as refugees. This would be done in coordination with Egypt, however, Cairo has steadfastly refused to allow large numbers of Gazans trying to escape the war into the country.

Those deemed eligible would receive all of the benefits available to resettled refugees, including housing assistance and a pathway to American citizenship.

Reportedly, over 80,000 Gazans have been infiltrated into Egypt by smugglers charging $5,000 each.

The senators’ letter said bringing Gazan refugees is a national security risk. “With more than a third of Gazans supporting the Hamas militants, we are not confident that your administration can adequately vet this high-risk population for terrorist ties and sympathies before admitting them into the United States.”

Recent polling found that more than 70% of Gazans support Hamas’s Oct. 7, 2023 attack against civilians in Israel.

The senators warned that “without thorough vetting, your administration may inadvertently accept terrorists posing as refugees into the interior. This is especially the case as Hamas terrorists have a long track record of co-mingling with civilian populations in Gaza.”

They noted that border officials “have arrested 169 people on the FBI terror watch lists in Fiscal Year 2023, a record-setting number that exceeds the total of the last six fiscal years combined. Apprehended terrorists include a Hezbollah fighter who intended ‘to make a bomb’ and was headed for New York.”

Among the signatories were Sens. Tommy Tuberville and Katie Boyd Britt of Alabama, John Boozman of Arkansas, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Ted Budd and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina, Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas.

From SJL and JNS reports