‘Refugees’ from Gaza

Will President Biden be bringing the Gaza Strip to a strip mall near you?

By George Fishman on May 9, 2024


  • The Biden administration is reportedly considering bringing to the United States as “refugees” Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, supposedly only those who have U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident parents, spouses, or minor children.
  • Reputable polling data from late last year and earlier this year reveals that the majority of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip support Hamas (a designated foreign terrorist organization) or, at the least, approve of Hamas’ October 7 massacres of Israeli civilians, deny Hamas atrocities, want Hamas to resume its control of Gaza, and are likely hostile to the United States:

    • 71 percent of respondents in Gaza said that Hamas made the correct decision in launching its October 7 attacks;
    • 52 percent prefer Hamas to be in control of the Gaza Strip after the war;
    • Only 6 percent believe that Hamas committed war crimes in its October 7 attacks;
    • 62 percent are satisfied with Hamas’ performance in its war with Israel, and 52 percent are satisfied with the role played by Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, responsible for planning the attacks;
    • Of respondents from Gaza who say they would vote in a presidential election between Hamas President Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, 69 percent would vote for Haniyeh; and
    • 47 percent support/strongly support a return to the “armed intifada and confrontations” (i.e. terrorism) against Israel. In last year’s polling, 57 percent of respondents (in the West Bank and Gaza combined) wanted to pursue “[c]ontinued struggle until the liberation of the entire historic Palestine” (i.e. the destruction of Israel).

    Finally, only 1 percent of respondents in Gaza are satisfied with the role of the United States in Hamas’ war with Israel.

  • Do we want to bring to the U.S. and provide a path to citizenship to an indeterminate number of Palestinians from Gaza harboring such views? Is this the type of diversity that will enrich American society?
  • As to vetting potential “refugees” for national security risks, consider that:
    • ISIS infiltrated, at the least, dozens of terrorists into Europe posing as Syrian refugees during the Syrian civil war. Wouldn’t Hamas be tempted to do the same thing to infiltrate its operatives into the U.S.?
    • The Biden administration promised robust vetting of Afghans to be airlifted to the U.S. upon the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Yet DHS’s Inspector General found that based on “cultural differences and questionable data ... it was challenging for DHS to fully screen and vet the evacuees”, resulting in DHS paroling “at least two ... into the [U.S.] who posed a risk to national security and the safety of local communities and [DHS] may have admitted or paroled more”.
    • As DHS Secretary Mahorkas’ now-retired Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott has explained, when officials “assert[] that aliens are properly vetted, they are really telling you that they checked U.S. databases [for] criminal history inside the U.S. or if the alien [happens to be] in the Terrorist Screening Database”. How will this ferret out Gazans who are members of Hamas or other Palestinian terrorist groups? Who is DHS going to check with in Gaza, Hamas? Will DHS at least check with the Israeli government to see what information it has?
  • Federal law provides that any alien who “endorses or espouses terrorist activity or persuades others to endorse or espouse terrorist activity or support a terrorist organization” is generally inadmissible or deportable. Will Secretary Mayorkas disqualify on this basis any potential Gazan beneficiary who supports Hamas, the October 7 massacres, and/or terrorism in general? That can be doubted, as it does not seem that DHS has brought a single removal proceeding against aliens in the U.S. who participated in pro-Hamas protests.


On April 30, Camilo Montoya-Galvez reported for CBS News that internal federal government documents show that senior Biden administration “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”, based on their classification as refugees.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas could, if he wanted to, legitimately designate Gaza under the Temporary Protected Status program, which allows for the designation of “any foreign state (or any part of such foreign state) ... [if he] finds that there is an ongoing armed conflict within the state and, due to such conflict, requiring the return of aliens who are nationals of that state to that state (or to the part of the state) would pose a serious threat to their personal safety”. But this would only benefit Gazans already present in the U.S.

As to Palestinians in Gaza, the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) defines a refugee as being “unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, th[e] country [of their nationality] because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”. Gazans do not qualify for refugee status! Or, I should rather say that the Palestinian population in Gaza does not qualify unless the Biden administration has suddenly determined that it is being persecuted by Israel. One’s presence in a war zone does not make one a refugee. But the terms of the INA have never seemed to matter much to Secretary Mayorkas. I can envision him singing “I'm a refugee, he's a refugee, she's a refugee, we're a refugee, wouldn't you like to be a refugee too?”

Secretary Mayorkas could also abuse the parole power granted to him by Congress, as he has done many times before, and parole Gazans into the U.S., but the INA provides that he “may not parole into the United States an alien who is a refugee unless [he] determines that compelling reasons in the public interest with respect to that particular alien require that the alien be paroled into the United States rather than be admitted as a refugee”. And what would that compelling reason be?

A National Security Threat?

Gazan Views of Hamas

The U.S. State Department (DOS) first designated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997. Following Hamas’ massacres of Israeli civilians on October 7, 2023, President Biden eloquently stated that “[t]he bloody hands of the terrorist organization Hamas” had unleashed “pure, unadulterated evil”, with “[m]ore than 1,000 civilians slaughtered”, “[p]arents butchered using their bodies to try to protect their children”, “[s]tomach-turning reports of ... babies being killed.” He called Hamas’ attacks “a campaign of pure cruelty — not just hate, but pure cruelty — against the Jewish people” and stated that Hamas unleashed “the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust ... that [had] reminded us all [of] that expression I learned from my dad early on: ‘Silence is complicity.’”

On May 1, 35 Republican senators led by John Kennedy (R-La.) sent a letter to President Biden expressing concern that his administration’s apparent Gazan refugee plan “poses a national security risk to the United States”, since “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”.

I would hope it takes little argument to convince people that we don’t actually want to welcome to our shores those Gazans who support Hamas’ massacres, that deny Hamas atrocities, and that want Hamas to prevail and resume control over Gaza. Is this the type of diversity that will enrich American society? Or, in the words of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, would we simply be importing “blood feuds to this country”? Do we want America to become the kind of place, as Europe has to some extent, where Jews for their own safety do not want to identify themselves as such in public?

But these questions presuppose that more than a third of Gazans actually support Hamas. Is this actually the case?

What does the polling show? Yes, there is reputable polling data available from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), which conducted face-to-face interviews with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip between November 22-December 2, 2023, and between March 5-10, 2024. As PSR describes itself:

PSR is an independent nonprofit institution and think tank of policy analysis and academic research ... founded with the goal of advancing scholarship and knowledge on immediate issues of concern to Palestinians ... [and] is dedicated to promoting objective and nonpartisan research and analysis and to encouraging a better understanding of Palestinian domestic and international environment in an atmosphere of free debate and exchange of ideas.

How did PSR conduct polling in a war zone? As it explained regarding its 2023 polling:

To ensure the safety of our field researchers in the Gaza Strip, interviews ... were conducted during the ceasefire ... . [W]e conducted interviews in the central and southern regions inside the selected sample homes, with the exception of one displaced area, where residents were interviewed in the shelter area where they had taken refuge. As for the northern Gaza Strip, residents were interviewed in 24 shelter locations ... and another 21 were conducted in the homes of relatives and friends of displaced people from the north.

As to its 2024 polling, PSR explained that:

[W]e have restricted the interviews ... to specific areas where there was no on-going daily fighting. These areas included the Rafah area, parts of the Khanyounis area, the central Gaza Strip, and all shelters in these areas. Our data collectors were not deployed in the besieged northern Gaza area nor in parts in the central Gaza Strip and parts in the Khanyounis area that saw daily fighting or Israeli army deployment.

What does the PSR polling data reveal? It reveals that far more than a third — in fact, a majority — of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip do indeed support Hamas; or, at the least, approve of Hamas’ massacres, deny Hamas’ commission of atrocities, want Hamas to prevail and resume control over Gaza, and/or support terrorism and likely share a widespread resentment of the U.S.:

Interestingly, PSR noted regarding the results of its March polling that:

When asked about their own preference, Gazans’ support for continued Hamas control over the Gaza Strip has increased to more than 50%, a 14-point rise. Indeed, given the magnitude of the suffering in the Gaza Strip, this seems to be the most counter intuitive finding of the entire poll. Nonetheless, it is consistent with the increase in the percentage of Gazans who think Hamas will win the current war.

Finally, 1 percent of Gazan respondents are satisfied with the role of the United States in Hamas’s war with Israel (the same as in November-December).

Thus, Gazans by and large support Hamas, one of the most vile and deadly terrorist organizations in the world, engage in atrocity denial, support terrorism against Israel, and likely share a widespread resentment of the United States.

Putting aside for a moment those Gazans who might themselves engage terrorist acts once in the United States, is this the type of immigration that is good for America’s commonweal? As my colleague Nayla Rush has recently written:

We saw images of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including children, spitting on Israeli hostages, hitting them, celebrating their capture. Do we know if one of these civilians will end up being resettled here under Biden’s new plan? Should we ask Israeli hostages who were released to see if they recognize any of them?

At a minimum, we should not forget that refugees, like any migrant group, carry with them their beliefs, values, and biases.

Is Adequate Vetting Feasible?

As to the necessity of effective vetting, we must keep in mind Hezbollah, the Lebanese group designated as a foreign terrorist organization by DOS in 1997, and Hamas’ close ally. Last October, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that Hezbollah “has a history of seeding operatives and infrastructure, obtaining money and weapons, and spying in this country going back years”. My colleague Todd Bensman has reported that:

One Hezbollah agent from Lebanon, sent over the Mexico-California border in the trunk of a car in 2003, was caught and prosecuted a few years later in Dearborn, Mich., for raising money for Hezbollah and collecting information on political enemies.

More recently, the government has prosecuted U.S.-based members of Hezbollah’s notorious clandestine “Unit 910”.

Court records from the 2018 prosecution of a New York City-based member of Hezbollah’s Unit 910 named Ali Kourani revealed that the defendant’s father, Muhammad Kourani, had “entered the United States illegally on foot”. U.S. prosecutors convicted the son of collecting intelligence of dual Israeli citizens for potential assassinations for Unit 910 from 2008 through at least 2015.

And my colleague Andrew Arthur recently wrote that:

  • [A] self-proclaimed Hezbollah member [was] caught crossing that border in El Paso, Texas.
  • [Basel Bassel] Ebbadi was apprehended on March 9 near El Paso, and according to [New York Post reporter Jennie] Taer, he was initially forthcoming about his terrorist plans in this country: “While in custody, he was asked what he was doing in the US, to which he replied, ‘I’m going to try to make a bomb’, according to a Border Patrol document.”

As to the ability of the Biden administration to effectively vet potential Gazan beneficiaries for national security concerns, one should keep three things in mind.

First, consider the number of terrorists who have entered Europe posing as Syrian refugees during the Syrian civil war. The Voice of America reported in 2016 the U.S.-based Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium’s determination that “41 Islamic State-linked militants and two from rival Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria, were apprehended while posing as refugees.” How many successfully entered without detection? And Bensman has concluded that “Of the 65 migrant-terrorists involved in completed or thwarted attacks [in Europe who entered Europe between 2014-18], at least 40 appeared to have been purposefully deployed into migrant flows toward Europe, impersonating war refugees, to conduct or support attacks in Europe. ISIS was responsible for this infiltration operation.” Do we really believe that Hamas would not try to seed the cohort of Gazans coming to America with its own operatives?

Second, consider that the Biden administration promised robust vetting of Afghans to be airlifted to the United States upon the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Secretary Mayorkas promised that “the federal government employs a multilayered and rigorous screening and vetting process” and that “Through a whole-of-government approach, we are ensuring that Afghans arriving in the United States have been thoroughly screened and vetted.”

Yet, DHS’ Office of the Inspector General later concluded that:

[U.S. Customs and Border Control] CBP did not always have critical data to properly screen, vet, or inspect Afghan evacuees ... . We determined some of the information used to vet evacuees through U.S. Government databases, such as name, DOB, identification number, and travel document data, was inaccurate, incomplete, or missing. CBP also admitted or paroled evacuees who were not fully vetted into the United States. We attribute the challenges to DHS not having: (1) a list of Afghan evacuees who were unable to provide sufficient identification documents; (2) a contingency plan to support similar emergency situations; and (3) standardized policies. As a result, DHS paroled at least two individuals into the United States who posed a risk to national security and the safety of local communities and may have admitted or paroled more individuals of concern.

Based on the cultural differences and questionable data in the biographic fields, it was challenging for DHS to fully screen and vet the evacuees. The Federal Government provides guidance on how to nominate and screen travelers with incomplete names. However, it also identifies the inherent limitations that exist in any primarily name-based system such as two of the systems described in the guidance.

CBP also allowed some evacuees to enter into the United States who may not have been fully vetted. According to internal DHS reports, CBP admitted or paroled dozens of evacuees with derogatory information into the country. We confirmed two such cases[.]

Third, consider that, as Rodney Scott, Secretary Mayorkas’ now-retired U.S. Border Patrol chief, has explained to Congress that:

When law enforcement officers at any level in the U.S. use a person’s biographical and biometric information to run records checks, that freshly collected information is being compared to existing records in specific U.S. agency databases. It is extremely rare for any information about criminal acts committed by a foreign national outside the U.S. to be documented within these U.S. criminal history databases. When Secretary Mayorkas or any U.S. official asserts that aliens are properly vetted, they are really telling you that they checked U.S. databases to see if the alien had any known criminal history inside the U.S. or if the alien had been identified and placed in the Terrorist Screening Database or Data Set.

To ensure there is no confusion here, running records checks on any alien that has not been arrested by U.S. law enforcement in the past or is not currently known by U.S. intelligence is like looking for something on an empty hard drive. There is simply no data to compare it with. The alien could be a saint, or he/she could be a serial killer.

Scott did note that one way to find out more about an alien “is to request information from officials in the alien’s home nation”, but that “[a]t best, that is extremely time consuming and requires U.S. State Dept. support” and “[i]n many cases ... is not even an option due to a lack of diplomatic relations or a lack of capabilities in the other nation”. Who is DHS going to check with in Gaza to vet possible beneficiaries? Hamas? Will it check with the Israeli government for any information it possesses?

Will “Refugees” from Gaza Espouse and Endorse Terrorism Once in the United States?

As I have said, if silence regarding mass murder is complicity, what should we call the celebration of mass murder? That enters a whole other realm. And, given that it's safe to assume Hamas would gladly have killed every Jew in Israel had it the opportunity, the celebration of Hamas’ mass murder is not too far removed from the celebration of genocide. And yet, persons in the U.S., apparently both citizen and alien, have indeed celebrated Hamas’ mass murder. This has been most notably documented on U.S. college and university campuses. Protesters have endorsed or espoused the genocidal views of Students for Justice in Palestine chapters justifying the slaughter of every Jewish man, woman, and child living in Israel as “settlers” and “loungers” who are fair game for death in pursuit of the “liberation” of Palestine “from the river to the sea” through “confrontation by any means necessary”.

The INA provides that any alien who “endorses or espouses terrorist activity or persuades others to endorse or espouse terrorist activity or support a terrorist organization” is generally inadmissible — that is, “ineligible to receive visas and ineligible to be admitted to the United States” and separately makes deportable any such alien already admitted. Will Secretary Mayorkas adhere to this ground of inadmissibility and disqualify any potential Gazan beneficiaries who support Hamas, approve of its October 7 massacres, and/or support terrorism in the U.S., in Israel, or anywhere else in the world? I am not very confident, as I am not aware of DHS bringing a single removal proceedings against any alien participants in the pro-Hamas protests that have taken place around the country.


In January, i24News reported that:

Yocheved Lifschitz, an 85-year-old Israeli peace activist who was held captive by Hamas, confronted Yahya Sinwar, the leader of the terrorist organization, during a visit to hostages in a tunnel.

Lifschitz demanded answers, saying, “Aren't you ashamed of having done this to people who have always worked for peace with the Palestinians?”

Lifschitz's sentiment reflects the shock experienced by many survivors who actively supported peace initiatives. Amit Siman-Tov-Vahaba, who lost her entire family in the attack, revealed a profound shift in her perspective: “My deepest beliefs were turned upside down. I thought the Gaza Strip was full of people who looked like us. ... But this was all false.”

I can only hope that the Biden administration’s misbegotten Gazan “refugee” plan does not come to fruition, and that those who conceived it will not need to experience their deepest beliefs being similarly turned upside down.