Ernst leads Senate GOP demanding Biden 'cease planning' Gaza refugee acceptance


FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, led Republican senators in demanding President Biden stop any plans for potential U.S. acceptance of Palestinian refugees from Gaza. 

“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,” Ernst wrote in a letter to Biden Wednesday evening. 

The letter was signed by 34 Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, Republican conference Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming and National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman Steve Daines of Montana. 

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Sen. Joni Ernst, Joe Biden

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, led 33 other Republicans in a letter demanding President Biden cease plans for acceptance of Gaza refugees. (Getty Images)

The correspondence was prompted by a CBS News report that Biden’s administration is considering allowing some Palestinian refugees from Gaza into the U.S. as refugees. 

According to the report, officials in several agencies in the Biden administration have been discussing over the course of weeks a number of possible plans to resettle some Palestinians in Gaza who have family that are either citizens of the U.S. or are permanent residents in the country. 

Fox News Digital reached out to the White House for confirmation of the CBS report but did not receive an immediate response. 

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre did not address a reporter’s questions Wednesday regarding the number of Palestinians the administration plans to relocate and whether the U.S. would help to physically transport them from Gaza. 

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The press secretary detailed past assistance the administration has provided to Americans who have been able to evacuate Gaza with their families. 

“We have also helped and will continue to help some particularly vulnerable individuals, such as children with serious health problems and children who were receiving treatment for cancer get out of harm’s way and receive care at nearby hospitals in the region,” she added. 

Mitch McConnell, John Barrasso, John Thune

Ernst’s letter was signed by 33 GOP senators, including the party’s leaders — Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Whip John Thune and conference Chairman John Barrasso.  (Getty Images)

Fox News confirmed with a State Department official that if visas were granted to Gaza refugees who have U.S. citizen relatives, it wouldn’t be through any “new program” or amount to a shift in policy. The official further confirmed such a move would be essentially an extension of existing policy toward Palestinians in the region.

The Republican senators detailed that they “are not confident” in the Biden administration’s ability to “adequately vet this high-risk population for terrorist ties and sympathies before admitting them into the United States.” 

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This comes as anti-Israel protests have taken place at 47 of the nation’s top 50 universities, as ranked in 2024 by U.S. News and World Report, in the last two weeks. At the same time, several protests have featured antisemitic intimidation and vandalism, some evolving into riots. 

In New York, approximately 300 people were arrested between April 30 and May 1 at Columbia University, where a building was taken over by demonstrators, and City College. 

Joe Biden, Tom Cotton

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and other Republicans slammed President Biden for what they alleged was better treatment for anti-Israel rioters than U.S. ally Israel.  (Getty Images)

The lawmakers pointed to the “little access” that the U.S. and allies have to Gazans in the region, “making it nearly impossible to conduct thorough vetting before admitting them into our country.”

The importance of a thorough vetting process is heightened, according to the senators, “given the fact that the Gazans were the ones who voted Hamas into power in 2006.”

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Ernst and her GOP colleagues added that the matter of admitting terrorists into the country isn’t a “hypothetical matter,” noting that in fiscal year 2023 alone, 169 individuals on the FBI’s terror watch lists were encountered at the U.S. southern border between ports of entry.

Migrants storm the gate at the border in El Paso

Republicans cited individuals on the terror watch list who were apprehended at the southern border last year.  (James Breeden for New York Post/Mega)

“Our first obligation should be to rescue our own citizens, not Gazans,” the senators said, reiterating their request that Biden focus on American hostages. 

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They further prompted Biden to answer how many refugees he hopes to accept and how his administration would “implement a screening mechanism” to guarantee that “those with terrorist links or sympathies are not accepted as refugees into the United States.”

The State Department did not provide immediate comment to Fox News Digital regarding the report or the GOP senators’ demand. 

Fox News’ Gillian Turner contributed to this report.





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