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On World Refugee Day, Nearly 70 Members of Congress Urge the Administration to Consider Certain Palestinians Fleeing Gaza for Refugee Status

WASHINGTON – Today, on World Refugee Day, U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Representatives Greg Casar (TX-35) and Debbie Dingell (MI-06) led 69 Members of Congress on a bicameral letter urging the Biden Administration to open up refugee status for certain Palestinians fleeing Gaza — namely those with U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members. 

In a letter released today addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the 69 Senators and Representatives expressed strong support for a Priority-2 (P-2) designation under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for Palestinians who are affected by the ongoing violence in Gaza and are relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The Administration is reportedly considering this designation.

“Palestinians in Gaza are facing an unrelenting barrage of violence, in addition to a lack of food, water, and sanitation as entire towns have been destroyed,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash). “Establishing a P-2 designation for certain Palestinians, primarily families of American citizens and lawful permanent residents, to legally enter the country as refugees would be an important step to save innocent lives at this dire moment. I call on the Administration to quickly enact this policy and reunite separated families while continuing to pursue a permanent ceasefire, the reconstruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza, and swift delivery of humanitarian aid.” 

“In the eight months since the horrific October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas and the commencement of Israel’s military response, conditions in the Palestinian territories have greatly deteriorated. My office, and many others, have received distressing requests for assistance from constituents desperately seeking to reunite with their loved ones,” said Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “By granting a P-2 designation for refugee processing for certain Palestinians, the United States will be giving hope to Americans with relatives in Gaza who have strong ties to our nation but remain stranded in life-threatening conditions. The time has come for the United States to lead in this manner.” 

“Palestinian families are turning to crowdfunding on websites like GoFundMe because they are so desperate to escape bombings, famine, and disease in Gaza,” said Congressman Greg Casar (D-Texas). “We must establish a P-2 designation for Palestinians and secure a lasting ceasefire so Palestinians who stay in Gaza can live without fear of persecution and violence.”

“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. 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,” said Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.). “P-2 provides a secure pathway to resettlement for those trying to help their family members and loved ones reach safety, with the most rigorous vetting of any visa program in the U.S. I urge the administration to grant P-2 designation for Palestinian refugees with family in the U.S. to finally provide hope to families who have endured unfathomable events in their greatest time of need.”  

The letter is signed by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), as well as U.S. Representatives Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Don Beyer (VA-08), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Cori Bush (MO-01), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), André Carson (IN-07), Greg Casar (TX-35), Sean Casten (IL-06), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Judy Chu (CA-28), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10), Debbie Dingell (MI-06), Lloyd Doggett (TX-37), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Valerie Foushee (NC-04), Maxwell Frost (FL-10), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Al Green (TX-09), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Val Hoyle (OR-04), Jonathan Jackson (IL-01), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson (GA-04), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Dan Kildee (MI-08), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Summer Lee (PA-12), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Gwen Moore (WI-04),  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Scott Peters (CA-50), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Katie Porter (CA-47), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Linda Sánchez (CA-38), Mary Scanlon (PA-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Adam Smith (WA-09), Melanie Stansbury (NM-01), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), and Nydia Velàzquez (NY-07).

The letter is endorsed by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Federation of Ramallah Palestine, Arab Americans 4Ward, Church World Service,, Demand Progress, Dream Defenders, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), Human Rights First, IfNotNow Movement, Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), Immigration Hub, International Refugee Assistance Project, J Street, MPower Change Action Fund, Muslim Advocates, National Iranian American Council Action (NIAC), National Partnership for New Americans, Peace Action, Project Immigration Justice for Palestinians (Project IJP),  RootsAction, Sunrise Movement, U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), Win Without War, and World Beyond War.

“At a time when we are seeing daily horror and devastation visited upon Palestinians in Gaza, their relatives in the U.S. are desperate for any opportunity to save them – this action provides that opportunity,” said Abed Ayoub, National Executive Director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). “The Biden Administration must act quickly and not waste any time in making this designation. The Administration must also ensure that the Palestinians who are able to utilize this status are not permanently prevented from returning to Gaza. We thank Senator Durbin and Representatives Casar, Jayapal, and Dingell for their leadership on this, as well as all the members who signed this letter.”

“Only an immediate and lasting ceasefire will put an end to the suffering and atrocities committed against the people of Gaza,” said Yasmine Taeb, Legislative and Political Director at MPower Change Action Fund. “On World Refugee Day, we’re grateful for this important bicameral effort led by Rep. Casar and Sen. Durbin strongly supporting a Priority-2 (P-2) designation under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) to welcome Palestinians in Gaza with family in the United States. The U.S. has an obligation to welcome refugees fleeing violence and persecution, particularly due to conditions that have been created with U.S. weapons and funding.” 

The full letter can be viewed here.

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