Biden administration shields thousands of Palestinians from deportation

Move protects up to 7,000 people from being deported for the next 18 months

People march in New York calling on Israel to stop its invasion of Rafah in Gaza. AFP
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President Joe Biden's administration on Wednesday protected thousands of Palestinians in the US from deportation for the next 18 months because of deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territories during the Israel-Gaza war.

Mr Biden said citizens of Palestine in the US are eligible for Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

Through this programme, more than 7,000 Palestinians will be able to remain in the country for the next year and a half without fear of deportation.

“Following the horrific October 7, 2023, terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel and Israel's ensuing military response, humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territories, and primarily Gaza, have significantly deteriorated,” Mr Biden said in a memo.

“While I remain focused on improving the humanitarian situation, many civilians remain in danger. Therefore, I am directing the deferral of removal of certain Palestinians who are present in the United States.”

Unlike Temporary Protection Status (TPS), administered by the Department of Homeland Security, DED is a presidential authority that is issued in response to situations wherein citizens of a foreign country are unable to return safely home due to armed conflict or natural disasters.

During the designated period, beneficiaries cannot be deported and can apply for work permits.

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The announcement comes amid growing criticism of the Biden administration over its continued support of Israel in its military campaign in Gaza, now in its fifth month.

Mr Biden, who is running for re-election, is facing intense pressure particularly from Arab Americans who are campaigning actively against him, after showing overwhelming support during his first presidential campaign.

Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas after an attack by the group on October 7 killed about 1,200 people.

More than 28,500 Palestinians have been killed in the ensuing Israeli bombardment, which has drawn international condemnation and calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Concerns are mounting over the fates of the more than two million Palestinian civilians who have been displaced and face severe shortages of food, water and medical care.

The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee welcomed the announcement.

“Ensuring that Palestinians in the US are not removed/deported back into harm's way is an important step, and one we welcome,” said the committee's national executive director, Abed Ayoub.

“In addition to continuing our call for an immediate ceasefire, we call on the administration to take additional steps of reuniting Palestinian families through the humanitarian parole process.”

In November, more than 100 members of Congress wrote a letter to the Biden administration, urging it to designate the Palestinian territories for TPS or

.

Updated: February 15, 2024, 11:03 PM