Democrats Push for ‘Priority-2’ Refugee Status for Palestinians with U.S. Ties

On Thursday, Congressional Democrats sent a letter to the Biden administration advocating for the admission of Palestinian refugees into the United States. Addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, the letter calls for a Priority-2 designation under the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP) for specific Palestinians. This designation would establish pathways for Palestinians with relatives who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to enter the United States.

The effort was spearheaded by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Greg Casar (D-TX), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI). It garnered signatures from 69 Congressional Democrats from both the House and Senate.

“Since the outbreak of the conflict in Gaza, many congressional offices have received distressing requests for assistance from constituents desperately seeking to reunite with their loved ones,” the letter mentions.

It continues, “We appreciate the steps that the Biden Administration has taken to evacuate American citizens from Gaza. However, without pathways for Americans to petition for their relatives in Gaza, countless families with strong ties to our nation remain stranded in life-threatening conditions.”

The letter goes on to say, “We urge you to consider opening pathways to Palestinian refugees, particularly those with family members in the United States, to seek relief in the United States. Specifically, we urge you to designate certain categories of Palestinians and their eligible family members, particularly close relatives of American citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents, for access to the USRAP.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal brought up the situation in Gaza in a press release: “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.” She referenced the attack that started on October 7, when Hamas and Palestinians attacked Israel, leading to 1,200 deaths and the kidnapping of over 200 people, many of whom are still held hostage. 

“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,” Jayapal said. “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.”