White House considers welcoming some Palestinians from war-torn Gaza as refugees

CBS News obtained documents from the federal government that indicate the Biden administration may consider bringing some Palestinians into America as refugees. This would provide a safe haven for those who are fleeing Gaza’s war-torn region.

The documents reveal that senior officials from several federal U.S. government agencies discussed in recent weeks the feasibility of different options for resettling Palestinians who come from Gaza and have family members who are American permanent residents or citizens.

According to inter-agency documents, one of these proposals calls for using the United States Refugee Admittance Program (which has been around for decades) to welcome Palestinians who have U.S. connections and managed to escape Gaza to enter Egypt.

Documents show that top U.S. officials also discussed getting more Palestinians out from Gaza and processing them if they had American relatives. These plans would need to be coordinated with Egypt, who has refused to accept large numbers of Gazans.


Refugee status allows for permanent residence, resettlement assistance, housing and a pathway to citizenship.

The eligible population will be small but the plans that are being discussed by U.S. government officials could provide a lifeline for some Palestinians who have fled the Israel-Hamas conflict, which, according to local health authorities, has killed more than 34,000 civilians and forced hundreds of thousands to flee Gaza.

A White House spokesperson told CBS News in a late-night statement that the U.S. had “helped more than 1,800 American Citizens and their Families leave Gaza. Many of them have now come to the United States.” We have helped and will continue helping some of the most vulnerable people, including children with serious medical problems, children receiving cancer treatment, and others, at President Biden’s direction.

In the statement, the U.S. said that it “categorically opposes any action leading to the forced removal of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank or redrawing the borders of Gaza.” The best way forward is a lasting cease-fire achieved through a hostage agreement that will stabilize the conflict and pave the path to a two state solution.

After Hamas launched an unprecedented attack in Israel on October 7, which killed approximately 1,200 people – most of whom were civilians – the Israeli government launched its military offensive as well as aerial bombardment against Gaza. Hamas militants abducted over 200 people. Many of them are still in captivity.

CBS News also contacted the Department of Homeland Security as well as the State Department to get their comments.

The proposal to resettle some Palestinians as refugees represents a significant shift in the long-standing policy and practice of the U.S. Government. The U.S. Refugee Program has not resettled Palestinians en masse since its founding in 1980.

In the last decade, the U.S. resettled over 400,000 refugees who fled violence and wars around the world. Less than 600 of them were Palestinian. State Department figures show that in fiscal year 2023 the U.S. received 56 Palestinian refugees or 0.09% out of more than 60,000 resettled refugees during this 12 month period.

Although many Democrats are likely to support this move, the Biden administration could face even greater political challenges in relation to the Israel-Hamas conflict if they admit Palestinians as refugees. The conflict has already caused rifts in the Democratic Party and sparked massive protests across college campuses.

In order to qualify as refugees, applicants must prove that they have fled persecution because of their nationality or religious beliefs. Some Palestinians may claim to be fleeing Hamas’ repression, while others might identify Israel, an important U.S. ally, as the persecutor.

Even if the resettlement is small, it could still be criticized by Republicans who are trying to use immigration and illegal border crossings as defining issues for November’s election.

After the attacks on Gaza by Hamas, and the beginning of Israel’s offensive, many Republicans, including some presidential candidates, claimed that the U.S. shouldn’t welcome Palestinian refugees. They claimed they were antisemitic, and could pose a national security risk.

The Biden administration dramatically increased the number of refugees resettled in recent years. This was drastically reduced by Donald Trump, who had slashed it to record lows. The United States has set a target of accepting up to 125,000 refugee in fiscal year 2024. This ends at the end September.