World Refugee Day: Lawmakers urge Biden administration to open pathway for Palestinians

Washington DC - On World Refugee Day, dozens of lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to open a pathway for Palestinians in Gaza with American family members to seek refuge in the US.

Dozens of members of Congress sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (l.) and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on World Refugee Day calling for greater protections for certain Palestinians in Gaza.
Dozens of members of Congress sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (l.) and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on World Refugee Day calling for greater protections for certain Palestinians in Gaza.  © Collage: Samuel Corum / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP & Drew ANGERER / AFP

"Since the outbreak of the conflict in Gaza, many congressional offices have received distressing requests for assistance from constituents desperately seeking to reunite with their loved ones," the members of Congress wrote in a letter, addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

"We appreciate that the steps the Biden Administration has taken to evacuate American citizens from Gaza," the lawmakers continue. "However, without pathways for Americans to petition for their relatives in Gaza, countless families with strong ties to our nation remain stranded in life-threatening conditions."

The letter, signed by 69 members of Congress, was led by Dick Durbin in the Senate and Greg Casar, Pramila Jayapal, and Debbie Dingell in the House. The action was endorsed by a host of civil society organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and more.

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Specifically, the members of Congress are calling for the creation of a US Refugee Admissions Program Priority 2 (P-2) Designation for certain Palestinians – a population which has historically benefitted very little from US resettlement efforts.

"Given the dire conditions currently on the ground in Gaza, it is time for this to change."

Biden administration urged to act quickly as Gaza death toll rises

Hungry Palestinian children wait for food being distributed at a camp for internally displaced people in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
Hungry Palestinian children wait for food being distributed at a camp for internally displaced people in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.  © Eyad BABA / AFP

The congressional letter comes as Israel wages a brutal assault on Gaza that has killed at least 37,431 Palestinians since October. Millions more in the occupied territory are facing grave threats of starvation and disease due to an Israeli blockade on food, water, medicine, and other basic necessities.

Although the White House initiated efforts last fall to evacuate American citizens from Gaza, it has not done enough to help Gazan refugees without US citizenship who have deep personal connections to the country, the signatories said.

At the same time, the Biden Administration has continued to supply the Israeli military with billions of dollars' worth of deadly weapons.

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"Palestinian families are turning to crowdfunding on websites like GoFundMe because they are so desperate to escape bombings, famine, and disease in Gaza," Casar said in a press release. "We must establish a P-2 designation for Palestinians and secure a lasting ceasefire so Palestinians who stay in Gaza can live without fear of persecution and violence."

"Establishing a P-2 designation for certain Palestinians, primarily families of American citizens and lawful permanent residents, to legally enter the country as refugees would be an important step to save innocent lives at this dire moment," Jayapal echoed.

"I call on the Administration to quickly enact this policy and reunite separated families while continuing to pursue a permanent ceasefire, the reconstruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza, and swift delivery of humanitarian aid."

Cover photo: Collage: Samuel Corum / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP & Drew ANGERER / AFP

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