United States

White House Considers Offering Refuge To Some Palestinians From Gaza Amid Israel-Hamas War

The Biden administration is considering offering refuge to some Palestinians from Gaza who have family ties to the United States.

George Washington University students protest the Israel-Hamas war at the university in Washington. Photo: AP

The Biden administration is contemplating a significant move that could provide a permanent safe haven for some Palestinians escaping the conflict-ridden Gaza Strip. Internal documents obtained by CBS News reveal discussions within senior ranks of various US federal agencies regarding the feasibility of resettling Palestinians from Gaza who have immediate family ties to American citizens or permanent residents.

According to these documents, one proposal under consideration involves utilizing the United States Refugee Admissions Program, established decades ago, to facilitate the entry of Palestinians with connections to the US who have managed to flee Gaza and reach neighbouring Egypt.

Additionally, high-level US officials have explored the possibility of evacuating more Palestinians from Gaza and processing them as refugees, particularly if they have relatives in the United States. However, such plans necessitate coordination with Egypt, which has thus far been reluctant to accommodate large numbers of Gazan refugees.

Individuals who successfully navigate a series of eligibility, medical, and security screenings would qualify for refugee status, entailing permanent residency in the US and access to resettlement benefits, including housing assistance and a pathway to American citizenship.

While the prospective number of eligible individuals is anticipated to be relatively modest, the proposed initiatives could offer a crucial lifeline to Palestinians fleeing the protracted Israel-Hamas conflict. Local public health authorities report staggering casualties, with over 34,000 lives lost and hundreds of thousands displaced in Gaza.

Responding to inquiries from CBS News, a White House spokesperson conveyed that the US has facilitated the departure of more than 1,800 American citizens and their families from Gaza, many of whom have sought refuge in the United States. The statement emphasized President Biden's directive to prioritize the evacuation of vulnerable individuals, including children requiring urgent medical care.

Furthermore, the White House statement explicitly rejected any measures leading to the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, emphasizing the pursuit of a sustainable ceasefire and a two-state solution as the preferred resolution to the conflict.

The current deliberations signal a departure from longstanding US refugee policy, which has historically resettled only a limited number of Palestinians. While the US has welcomed over 400,000 refugees fleeing global conflicts in the past decade, Palestinian refugees have comprised a fraction of this total, with only 56 admitted in fiscal year 2023, according to State Department data.

Moreover, the admission of Palestinian refugees, albeit on a limited scale, could trigger political challenges for the Biden administration, particularly regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict, which has already divided opinions within the Democratic Party and sparked protests nationwide.

Republican opposition to admitting Palestinian refugees, citing concerns over antisemitism and national security risks, further complicates the matter. Notably, leading Republicans have voiced opposition to such initiatives, particularly in light of the recent conflict initiated by Hamas.

In recent years, the Biden administration has significantly increased refugee resettlement efforts, aiming to admit up to 125,000 refugees in fiscal year 2024, a notable departure from the restrictive policies of the previous administration under President Donald Trump.