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Palestinians in the U.S. temporarily safeguarded from deportation under new Biden order

Published: Thursday, February 15, 2024 - 4:50pm

The Biden administration is enacting a special executive action to temporarily safeguard Palestinians in the U.S. from being deported.

The administration is using what's called Deferred Enforced Departure, a status given to non-U.S. citizens whose countries have been deemed unsafe for return, because of conflict, natural disasters or other issues.

In a memo about the designation, the White House said conditions have significantly deteriorated in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attacks  — when the militant group Hamas killed an estimated 1,200 people in Israel and took more than 200 hostages, according to Israeli authorities. Health officials in Gaza say Israeli airstrikes have since killed more than 28,000 people there since then and displaced more than 1 million, according to U.N. figures.

Mohyeddin Abdulaziz, with the advocacy group Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance, says it’s a welcome step. 

"We are very grateful to the Biden administration for recognizing that Palestinians who are here in the United States and not holders of green cards, or residents, or immigrants, are not forced to go back to where they and their families will face eminent danger and possibly death," he said. "The understanding that this is an exceptional situation, and sending them to a very dangerous area is not something our country should do." 

The designation comes after Democratic lawmakers including Southern Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva penned a letter that called on the Biden administration to protect Palestinians in the U.S. amid the ongoing conflict.

"Thousands are unable to access clean water and nutrition; access to medical care has become increasingly difficult, with some health facilities in Gaza hit by bombardment and many others crippled by a lack of fuel for electricity," the Nov. 8th letter read. "And in the West Bank, unrest and settler violence have resulted in the deaths of 149 Palestinians and the forcible displacement of hundreds more."

Under the new designation, Palestinians who meet the criteria can remain in the U.S. for 18 months without fear of deportation and can also apply for a work permit. The Department of Homeland Security estimates more than 7,000 Palestinians nationwide could be eligible. Those convicted of felonies or otherwise deemed threats to public safety are barred.

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