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Rubio, Ernst, Colleagues Demand Answers From Biden Regarding Gazan Refugee Migration Plan

May 2, 2024 | Press Releases

Under the Biden Administration, our nation has been inundated by illegal mass migration. President Biden has undermined our national security interests and his handling of the border crisis remains a threat for the American people. Recent reports indicate President Biden is planning on bringing unvetted Palestinian refugees, from Gaza, into the United States. 

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and colleagues in sending a letter to President Joe Biden requesting he provide an explanation for this plan, which poses a significant risk to U.S. national security. 

  • “The potential refugees reportedly need to pass ‘a series of eligibility, medical, and security screenings’ before entering the United States. These proposals ignore that Hamas remains in control of large parts of the Gaza Strip, including the border city of Rafah, where as many as 1.4 million Gazans reside today.
  • “Border officials have arrested 169 people on the FBI terror watch lists in Fiscal Year 2023, a record-setting number that exceeds the total of the last six fiscal years combined. Apprehended terrorists include a Hezbollah fighter who intended ‘to make a bomb’ and was headed for New York.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senators John Thune (R-SD), John Barrasso (R-WY), Steve Daines (R-MT), Michael Rounds (R-SD), Ted Budd (R-NC), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), John Boozman (R-AR), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), John Cornyn (R-TX), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Mark Mullin (R-OK), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), John Kennedy (R-LA), Cynthia Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Rick Scott (R-FL), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), James Lankford (R-OK), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Tim Scott (R-SC), Katie Boyd Britt (R-AL), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) also signed the letter. 

The full text of the letter is below. 

Dear President Biden,

Your administration’s reported plan to accept Gazan refugees poses a national security risk to the United States. With more than a third of Gazans supporting the Hamas militants, we are not confident that your administration can adequately vet this high-risk population for terrorist ties and sympathies before admitting them into the United States. We are further worried that accepting Gazan refugees might cause a crisis at the Egypt-Gaza border, leading to chaos that would only empower Iran-backed Hamas. We are also frustrated that your administration is pushing ahead with a plan to evacuate Gazans from the Strip when there are still American citizens held hostage by Hamas. We demand that your administration cease planning for accepting Gazan refugees until you adequately answer our concerns and focus your attention instead on securing the release of U.S. hostages held by Hamas. 

On April 30, CBS News reported that “senior officials across several federal U.S. agencies have discussed the practicality of different options to resettle Palestinians from Gaza who have immediate family members who are American citizens or permanent residents.”  One proposal involves resettling Gazans who have already made it out of the Gaza Strip and entered Egypt, while another plan seeks to pull Gazans out of the Strip and directly into the United States. 

The potential refugees reportedly need to pass “a series of eligibility, medical, and security screenings” before entering the United States. These proposals ignore that Hamas remains in control of large parts of the Gaza Strip, including the border city of Rafah, where as many as 1.4 million Gazans reside today. U.S. and allied officials have very little access to Gazans living in the area, making it nearly impossible to conduct thorough vetting before admitting them into our country. We must ensure Gazans with terrorist ties or sympathies are denied admission into the United States—no easy feat, given the fact that the Gazans were the ones who voted Hamas into power in 2006. Without thorough vetting, your administration may inadvertently accept terrorists posing as refugees into the interior. This is especially the case as Hamas terrorists have a long track record of co-mingling with civilian populations in Gaza.

Unfortunately, the risk of terrorists entering our homeland is no hypothetical matter. Border officials have arrested 169 people on the FBI terror watch lists in Fiscal Year 2023, a record-setting number that exceeds the total of the last six fiscal years combined.  Apprehended terrorists include a Hezbollah fighter who intended “to make a bomb” and was headed for New York.  Given your administration’s abject failure at countering the flow of potential terrorists at our border, how can Congress trust your administration to adequately vet the refugees crossing the Egypt-Gaza border, located nearly 6,000 miles away from Washington, D.C.?

We are also concerned that any U.S. refugee plan may exacerbate the tense situation at the Gaza-Egypt border. Egypt is already concerned that the ongoing conflict may cause a surge in the number of Gazans trying to cross into the Sinai Peninsula illegally. As such, Cairo has restricted its border with Gaza, limiting the number of Gazans entering Egypt. We are worried that if the United States institutes a large-scale refugee policy for Gazans, they may swarm the Egypt-Gaza border in the hopes of leaving for America. We are confused as to why the United States is willing to accept Gazan refugees when even nearby Arab countries supportive of the Palestinian cause refuse to take them in due to security concerns. 

Your reported plans to increase the number of Palestinian refugees mark a significant departure from decades of bipartisan precedent. Both Democrat and Republican administrations have historically accepted very few Palestinian refugees, who make up less than 0.2 percent of all refugees admitted into the United States since 2001.  We urge you to suspend plans to accept the refugees until you answer the following questions and redirect your efforts to saving the Americans who are still held hostage in Gaza. Our first obligation should be to rescue our own citizens, not Gazans.

Please provide an answer by May 15, 2024: 

  1. How many Gazan refugees does your administration seek to accept into the United States?
    • How many refugees would be Gazans who have already fled to Egypt?
    • How many refugees would be Gazans still located in the Gaza Strip?
  2. Given the widespread Hamas control over the Gaza Strip, as well as the dense fog of war due to the ongoing conflict, how will your administration implement a screening mechanism to ensure that those with terrorist links or sympathies are not accepted as refugees into the United States?
    • Please provide details on how your administration will conduct these screenings when U.S. officials do not have an on-the-ground presence in the Gaza Strip.
    • How does the U.S. plan to pay for the cost of transport, screening, medical support, and temporary lodging of these Gazan refugees? 
  1. Have U.S. officials consulted with the Egyptian government or other regional partners on this policy proposal?
  2. Given the necessity of using the Department of Defense to provide temporary housing and support during Operation Allies Welcome, what is the administration’s plan for providing temporary housing to Gazan refugees?
    • Where are the proposed locations for the temporary housing? 
    • What are the proposed locations for resettlement? 
    • Will the temporary housing displace any military personnel?