A group of Democratic representatives urged US President Joe Biden to allow Palestinian tourists, students and workers in the United States to stay in light of the conflict in the Gaza Strip and unrest and violence in the West Bank.
More than 100 Democrats, led by Senator Dick Durbin, called in a letter to Biden, Wednesday, to grant residents of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel exemption from deportation and the possibility of obtaining work permits through American programs for those whose homelands have been affected by conflicts, natural disasters, or other exceptional circumstances.
“In light of the ongoing armed conflict, Palestinians already in the United States shouldn’t be forced to return to the Palestinian territories, consistent with President Biden’s stated commitment to protecting Palestinian civilians”.
Protections requested on humanitarian grounds will only be available to Palestinians already in the United States, not to those in a war zone or refugees in other countries.
It’s not clear though how many Palestinians in the United States might be included.
United Nations figures indicate that about two-thirds of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people have been internally displaced due to the fighting.
Lawmakers called on Biden to use the Temporary Protected Status program or the Deferred Involuntary Departure program to provide this support.
The US president Joe Biden has granted temporary protected status to hundreds of thousands of people since he took office in 2021, including citizens of Venezuela and Haiti.
Democrats’ pressure on Biden comes at a time when some Republican presidential candidates, including former President Donald Trump, support immigration restrictions on those coming from Gaza.
Last week, Republican Representative Ryan Zinke and 10 other Republicans introduced a bill to expel Palestinians from the United States for security reasons and deny entry to those holding passports issued by the Palestinian Authority.
Some Democrats, civil rights and immigrant advocates criticized the bill, with Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell calling it absolutely despicable.