Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., is pushing Congress to shut down all Palestinian immigration into the U.S. with legislation that he says is “very hard and harsh” amid ongoing concerns about vetting migrants for potential ties to terrorism following Hamas’ October attack against Israel.
Zinke’s Safeguarding Americans from Extremism (SAFE) Act would target any foreign national with a Palestinian Authority (PA) passport or PA-granted travel document, making them inadmissible to the United States.
Additionally, it would bar the Department of Homeland Security from granting green cards and temporary or “nonimmigrant” visas to PA passport holders and would revoke visas issued to those covered after October 1.
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The measure would block DHS from granting Temporary Protected Status, asylum or refugee status to PA passport holders, and it would revoke those statuses to anyone with passports if it granted this fiscal year.
“This bill looks and is a very, very hard and harsh bill. Absolutely. And I said from the very, very beginning. I don’t think you’ll find a more stringent bill on the Gaza region than this,” he said. “What has drawn us to this is that this administration has failed in every previous account or two that has come in this country.”
The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Andy Harris, R-Md., Aaron Bean, R-Fla., Ralph Norman, R-S.C., Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., Clay Higgins, R-La., Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, Bill Posey, R-Fla., Barry Moore, R-Ala., Marjorie Taylor Greene R-Ga., and Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.
It’s a step further than legislation and calls by other Republicans — including on the campaign trail — where candidates have called only for a block on refugees coming into the U.S. and also the revocation of visas of Hamas supporters.
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“I think this is the most stringent anti-Gaza anti-Hamas immigration refugee bill ever, and I can tell you this administration is deserving of it, because, to date, I haven’t seen them screen anybody,” he said.
There has been renewed scrutiny of the potential connection between immigration and terrorism since Hamas’ attack on Israel. Republicans have noted increased encounters of people on the terror watch list at the southern border.
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CBS News reported this week that a 20-year-old Jordanian man in Texas, who is accused of training with weapons to commit an attack, traveled to the U.S. on a Palestinian passport at one point.
DHS has stressed that it has “multilayered border security efforts,” including screening and vetting, and has also said that encounters of known or suspected terrorists are uncommon.
Recently, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) warned in an internal memo of the possibility that foreign fighters from Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Jihad may try to enter the U.S. — although the agency says it has seen no indications of fighters trying to do so.
Zinke also cited concerns about the vetting of more than 70,000 Afghans brought into the U.S. after the 2021 withdrawal — concerns the administration has challenged — and says that the vetting of both the PA and the Biden administration cannot be trusted.
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“I say enough’s enough,” he said.
He stressed, however, that he doesn’t have anything against Palestinians, and that this is about the ability to vet people.
“I don’t have any hard feelings towards the Palestinian people, but where we are is that this administration, given the population of what’s occurred and the horrific acts that were done, we need to look at it as almost a pandemic and stop it from spreading. And this administration, again, it has shown that they’re incapable of vetting.”