House Dems Seek Protected Status for Palestinians

Palestine flag | Image by Volodymyr TVERDOKHLIB

A letter to the Biden administration championed by Democrat members of Congress could portend a mass exodus of Palestinians to the West, an immigration expert told The Dallas Express.

Addressed to President Biden with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Chief Alejandro Mayorkas copied, the two-page letter advocates for the extension of special protections against deportation for refugees from Palestine.

It asks that refugees from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who are already in the United States be designated as eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and/or authorized Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED).

TPS is granted when the recipient’s home country is deemed too unsafe for their return, whereas the president can allow DED at his discretion. Both statuses shield the recipient from deportation. 

The Dallas Express interviewed Art Arthur, resident fellow in Law and Policy for the Center for Immigration Studies, to get his perspective on the proposals advocated in the document.

Arthur noted that the letter contains a list of circumstances that make life difficult and dangerous for Palestinians not only in Gaza, where the Israel Defense Forces are currently conducting operations to eliminate Hamas, but also in the West Bank, where it says “protests and settler violence have resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Palestinians and the forcible displacement of hundreds more.”

Arthur said such language indicates that the document’s drafters anticipate that Palestinians from all the Palestinian Authority regions would be covered if TPS or DED were granted.

The immigration expert warned that granting TPS status to people from certain countries and territories can encourage unlawful entries in the future, as others from the region then expect that TPS status will be renewed to include newer arrivals.

To illustrate the problem, Arthur pointed to examples of TPS in the past, including for Somalians who have had temporary status for 32 years and, more recently, Venezuelans who first achieved TPS status for those in the U.S. on or before March 8, 2021.

Arthur pointed out that in the roughly three years before TPS was first extended to Venezuelans, approximately 5,061 Venezuelans entered the U.S.

However, Arthur noted, after TPS was granted in March 2021, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) documented 46,404 encounters with unlawful migrants from Venezuela through October of that year. In 2022, CBP recorded 187,700 encounters, and during the first 10 months of 2023, there were an additional 168,000.

Then came the announcement by the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas of the redesignation of Venezuela for TPS on September 20 of this year, effectively rewarding the hundreds of thousands of new unlawful arrivals and, of course, encouraging new ones, Arthur added. 

Turning to the situation of the Palestinians, Arthur wondered why neighboring Arab nations could not accommodate Palestinian refugees.

“The Arab world is a pretty big place. Nothing suggests they can’t settle closer to home,” Arthur said, adding that them remaining closer to Palestine would be logical if TPS were truly intended to be temporary and thus allow people to return home.

“Nothing is so permanent as temporary status,” Arthur concluded.

In addition to the almost 5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, another 2.3 million live as refugees in Jordan. About 18% of the Jordan-based refugees live in United Nations-administered refugee camps. Arthur wondered how many would rather try their luck entering the U.S.

A draft of Congress’ letter was first posted on social media by Henry Rodgers, chief national correspondent for the Daily Caller, who reported that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) avidly promoted the proposal. 

Upon being sent, the letter had been signed by over 100 members of Congress, 70 of whom were House Democrats, according to The Associated Press.

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) posted on social media on November 8, “It is important that we continue to distinguish between Hamas terrorists and the innocent civilians of Gaza. Just as I called for TPS for Ukrainians and other refugees, I am calling for TPS for Palestinians as war impacts the region.

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