CLIVE, Iowa — Former President Donald Trump on Monday called for barring potential refugees from Gaza from entering the U.S., promising to “expand” his travel ban that President Joe Biden’s administration rescinded in 2021.
“We aren’t bringing in anyone from Gaza, Syria, Somalia, Yemen or Libya or anywhere else that threatens our security,” Trump said at his campaign event.
“I banned refugees from Syria, I banned refugees from Somalia — very dangerous places — and from all of the most dangerous places all over the world, I banned them,” Trump said.
“In my second term, we’re going to expand each and every one of those bans,” he added.
In 2015, Trump first proposed “a total and complete shutdown” of Muslims’ entering the U.S. Upon entering the White House, his administration tried to enact a sweeping executive order, which was eventually limited to five Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen), along with North Korea and Venezuela.
In his current campaign, he has been calling for an expanded travel ban, but Monday was the first time he has included Gaza.
Some of Trump’s Iowa supporters said they backed his call for a ban.
“We don’t need to import that trouble,” said Larry Troxel, 79, of Waukee, Iowa, who voted for Trump twice and is leaning toward caucusing for him in 2024.
Speaking about Gazans and Hamas interchangeably, Jeff Lamberty, 60, a two-time Trump voter, said, “We can’t control our border today, let alone a bunch of people who want to kill Jews.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also called for a ban on Palestinian refugees’ entering the U.S. on Sunday after he baselessly asserted that the more than 2 million residents of Gaza are “all antisemitic.” And in an interview Sunday, he doubled down and said other Arab nations should take in Palestinian refugees.
“You have Egypt, you have Saudi Arabia, you have Jordan, you have Lebanon, you have all these other Arab countries. They should be the ones to absorb any Palestinian Arabs leaving the Gaza Strip,” DeSantis said.
“In Gaza, they teach the kids to hate Jews. … This is embedded in the culture,” he added.
Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, took a slightly different tack in an interview Sunday with CNN, saying that while some Palestinians support Hamas, many don’t.
“There are so many of these people who want to be free from this terrorist rule,” she said. “They want to be free from all of that. And America’s always been sympathetic to the fact that you can separate civilians from terrorists.”
In his interview with NBC News Sunday night, DeSantis said he was willing to “speak the truth” while Haley was “trying to be politically correct” and please the media.”
“I don’t care about that,” he said. “I’m gonna speak the truth and let the chips fall where they may.”
Trump, the Republican Party's 2024 front-runner, also said he would “proactively” send immigration agents to “pro-jihadist demonstrations” in the U.S. to remove noncitizens, citing the “mobs … literally barbarians that we saw in the streets of New York” during recent pro-Palestinian protests. He also pledged to “revoke the student visas of radical anti-American and antisemitic foreigners at our colleges and universities.”
Trump also declared that he would implement “strong ideological screening of all immigrants,” which would include a person’s rejection of Hamas.
Last year, Trump faced significant criticism for dining with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West — who was under fire at the time for his antisemitic remarks — along with white supremacist Nick Fuentes. In 2017, he refused to condemn a group of white nationalists at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, instead saying “many sides” were to blame for the deadly violence. At that event, the white nationalists were chanting “Jews will not replace us.”
While Republicans on the campaign trail have been discussing refugees from Gaza, the Biden administration has so far not publicly talked about a special carve-out for Palestinians.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Sept. 30, the Biden administration set its refugee cap for fiscal year 2024 at 125,000 — a designation that does not specify the number of refugees from each country.
Typically, the U.S. accepts only a small number of Palestinian refugees every year, in large part because the original 1951 Refugee Convention intentionally carved out an exception to keep Palestinians from accessing the program, which the U.S. and other countries use to vet and resettle refugees.
Palestinian refugees go through a separate United Nations program, which does not refer to the U.S. For the select few who are referred to the U.S., partner organizations have referral authority.
In fiscal year 2023, for example, the U.S. accepted just 56 Palestinian refugees; the year before, it was 16.
After Hamas’ attack on Israel, Trump faced criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and calling Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based group designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, “very smart.”
"Donald Trump is following up last week’s erratic behavior — criticizing Israel and praising their terrorist enemies — by now exploiting fear and anxiety in a shameless attempt to revive his widely rejected, extreme Muslim ban," Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison said in a statement. "Trump continues to confirm that his only guiding principle is what serves himself, not the American people or our national security."