34 GOP senators call potential Biden plan for Palestinian refugees national security risk

More than two dozen Republican senators are calling a potential proposal by President Biden to accept Palestinian refugees from Gaza a national security risk, following the administration’s acknowledgment that discussions are underway to help Palestinians in the U.S. bring families over from the region.

A letter rejecting the potential proposal was led by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the number three GOP leader, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and 33 colleagues.

It signals another avenue Republicans may try to attack Biden ahead of the November election.

While Biden has maintained robust military support for Israel, he is under immense political pressure from Democrats and progressives amid increasingly violent protests across the U.S. to do more to hold Israel to account for a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Republicans have seized on the criticism as failing to support Israel’s right to self-defense in the aftermath of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, where an estimated 1,200 people were killed in their homes, on the streets and at a music festival, and more than 250 taken hostage. Hamas still holds approximately 133 Israeli hostages, some with dual-American citizenship.

The GOP senators call for Biden to prioritize securing the release of American hostages over accepting Palestinians as refugees.

“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.”

The GOP senators further frame accepting Palestinians from Gaza as a national security risk, raising doubt that the Biden administration could prevent Hamas-members or other members of a terrorist group from entering the U.S.

“Unfortunately, the risk of terrorists entering our homeland is no hypothetical matter,” the senators wrote, citing that border officials had arrested 169 people on the FBI terror watchlist over the course of 2023.

The Biden administration has acknowledged that Hamas has tried to exploit civilian evacuations for its own gain. During a week-long cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in November, the Biden administration said it worked to block Hamas fighters, disguising themselves as civilians, from receiving medical treatment outside Gaza.

The GOP senators also raise concern over the risk of allowing Palestinians, 34 percent of whom are said to support Hamas, into the U.S. The senators don’t acknowledge that that number is a decline from months previous, in response to the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip, according to polling carried out by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey research.

“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,” they wrote.

The letter follows criticism from former Trump administration officials and other lawmakers rejecting the proposed plan for accepting refugees and raising it as a key election issue.

Former Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, now a Fox News co-host, criticized Biden as exploring executive action “not to close the southern border, but to bring in more Palestinian refugees. Wow. Good luck with that in a general election.”

And Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fl.) said in a statement Tuesday that he rejected the Biden administration’s plan to “import” Palestinians from Gaza into the U.S.

“The latest in Joe Biden’s America Last agenda is an absurd scheme to bring into our country the people who cheered as Americans and Israelis were killed, beaten, raped, and taken hostage on October 7th,” he said. “These are the same people who elected Hamas as their government. These are people who live next to Egypt, yet Egypt finds them too much of a national security risk to let into their country.”

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