Democrats urge Biden to protect Palestinians in US amid conflict

A group of Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday urged US President Joe Biden to allow Palestinian tourists, students, and workers in the United States to remain in light of the conflict in the Gaza Strip and unrest and violence in the West Bank.

In a letter to Biden, more than 100 Democrats led by US Senator Dick Durbin called on Biden to grant residents of Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories deportation relief and access to work permits through US programs for people whose homelands are affected by conflicts, natural disasters or other extraordinary circumstances.

“In light of ongoing armed conflict, Palestinians already in the United States should not be forced to return to the Palestinian territories, consistent with President Biden’s stated commitment to protecting Palestinian civilians,” the lawmakers wrote.

The humanitarian protections would only be available to Palestinians already in the US, not those in the war zone or refugees in other countries. It was not clear how many Palestinians in the US would be covered.

Around two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million population are internally displaced due to the fighting, according to UN figures.

The lawmakers called on Biden to use the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs to provide the relief. Biden has granted TPS to hundreds of thousands of people since taking office in 2021, including Venezuelans and Haitians.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Democratic pressure on Biden comes as some Republican presidential candidates, including former President Donald Trump, have backed immigration restrictions against people coming from Gaza.

Last week, Republican Representative Ryan Zinke and 10 other Republicans introduced a bill to expel Palestinians from the US on security grounds and bar entry of people holding passports issued by the Palestinian Authority, a governing body set up under the Oslo interim peace accords 30 years ago.

Some Democrats, civil rights, and immigrant advocates criticized the bill, with Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell calling it “absolutely despicable.”

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