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Why Democrats’ call to welcome Palestinian refugees is so complicated for Biden

House and Senate Democrats are calling on the Biden administration to allow Palestinian refugees into the United States, putting President Joe Biden in a difficult position. In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Reps. Greg Casar (D-TX), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and […]

House and Senate Democrats are calling on the Biden administration to allow Palestinian refugees into the United States, putting President Joe Biden in a difficult position.

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Reps. Greg Casar (D-TX), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) led 69 members of Congress in pushing President Joe Biden to grant certain Palestinians a Priority-2 designation under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. 

“Since the horrific attack on October 7, many Palestinians have been caught in Gaza with the civilian death toll climbing, the inability to find a safe place to escape, and conditions worsening every day,” Dingell said. “My office receives almost daily calls from desperate constituents who have had many family members killed from grandparents to babies. One constituent lost more than 40 relatives.” 


The congressional Democrats were especially asking the Biden administration to grant access to Palestinians who have “U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members.”

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen, killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

The war between Israel and Hamas has created a humanitarian disaster in Gaza. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports at least 37,396 Palestinians have been killed, 85,523 injured, and an estimated 1.7 million displaced, more than half the population. 

Meanwhile, U.S. officials report that they believe only 50 of 112 Israeli hostages held by Hamas are still alive. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been adamant about ensuring the safe release of the hostages in all ceasefire talks with Hamas and third parties.

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Biden’s alliance with Israel in this war has cost him support from progressives and Arab Americans. He attempted to draw a line with Israel by halting an arms shipment to Israel meant to be used in Rafah last month but has continued sending weapons since. The White House canceled a meeting with Netanyahu on Thursday after the Israeli prime minister made claims that the president was withholding weapons from his country. 

The congressional Democrats’ letter comes as Biden approved a $404 million aid package for Gaza that is prompting Republican lawmakers to question the president on how he intends to keep the money out of Hamas’s hands. 

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With pressure from Democrats to let Palestinian refugees in, Biden is faced with a crisis along the southern border as asylum-seekers pour into major cities. A recent poll found that 64% of the country disapproves of the president’s handling of the crisis.

The call by Democratic lawmakers puts Biden in a difficult position. If he ignores the demand, he could ignite backlash from members of his party and others sympathetic to the Palestinians’ pleas. However, if Biden permits Palestinians to come, he will likely garner criticism from Republicans concerned with Biden’s policies allowing immigrants into the country.

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