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President defers deportation of Palestinians amid war in Gaza

President Joe Biden temporarily blocked the deportation of Palestinians in the United States on Wednesday, saying "many civilians remain in danger," as conditions in Gaza deteriorate amid Israel's war with Hamas. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI
President Joe Biden temporarily blocked the deportation of Palestinians in the United States on Wednesday, saying "many civilians remain in danger," as conditions in Gaza deteriorate amid Israel's war with Hamas. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 14 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden blocked the deportation of "certain Palestinians who are present in the United States" on Wednesday, giving them an 18-month safe haven as humanitarian conditions in Gaza deteriorate amid Israel's war with Hamas.

"Following the horrific Oct. 7, terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel, and Israel's ensuing military response, humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian Territories, and primarily Gaza, have significantly deteriorated," Biden wrote in the order.

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"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."

Biden has faced increasing pressure from Democrats and the Arab-American community to extend U.S. protections for Palestinians.

"We see the situation in Gaza and Palestine is not getting better, and this is something that is welcome, and we are glad to see it implemented," Abed Ayoub, executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said in a statement Wednesday.

More than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed in attacks on Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, since Israel declared war against Hamas on Oct. 7, after militants killed 1,200 and took about 250 hostage in Israel.

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While Biden's order covers more than 7,000 eligible Palestinians currently in the United States, there are exceptions. Those include Palestinians who have voluntarily returned to Palestinian Territories, and those who have not resided in the United States.

Biden also excluded any Palestinians who have been convicted of a felony in the United States, or have more than two misdemeanors.

Those subject to extradition and those whose presence is "not in the interest of the United States," or present a danger to public safety, are also excluded from the deferred enforced departure.

Biden ordered Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to "authorize employment for noncitizens" during the 18-month safe haven, and to suspend all regulatory requirements for nonimmigrant Palestinian students.

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