Republican presidential contenders bring idea of banning some Muslims into mainstream

Israel Palestinians
Palestinians take shelter in a U.N.-run school from the ongoing Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip in Nuiserat refugee camp on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. Hatem Moussa/AP

Republican presidential contenders bring idea of banning some Muslims into mainstream

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Republican presidential candidates are uniting around imposing intense restrictions against immigrants and refugees from Gaza over concerns that citizens of the Hamas-controlled territory would be unsafe to admit to the United States.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), former President Donald Trump, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) have coalesced around the idea that nearby nations ought to take in displaced people from Gaza as the Israel-Hamas war continues.


On Saturday, DeSantis issued a sharp call for the U.S. to accept refugees who flee the Gaza Strip following the Israeli military’s instruction for more than 1 million Gaza residents to evacuate amid retaliatory attacks.

“I am not going to do that,” DeSantis said during a campaign event Saturday. “You don’t fly people and import them into the United States of America.”

DeSantis doubled down on the idea in an interview on CBS News on Sunday, teeing up the issue for Republicans to weigh in as war continued in the Middle East.

“Those Gaza refugees, Palestinian Arabs, should go to Arab countries. The U.S. should not be absorbing any of those,” DeSantis said on Sunday. “They elected Hamas. Let’s just be clear about that. Not everyone’s a member of Hamas — most probably aren’t — but they did elect Hamas.”

DeSantis pointed to a “toxic culture” in the Gaza Strip, where the schools “teach kids to hate Jews” and the textbooks “do not have Israel even on the map.”

Haley weighed in Tuesday on Fox News and said she has long opposed the idea that the U.S. should rush to take in refugees from war-torn countries.

“I’ve always said we shouldn’t take any Gazan refugees in the U.S. I said it when I was at the U.N. that we shouldn’t take Syrian refugees into the U.S. I believe that those in the region should take them,” Haley said. “I said that about Syria then. That’s why Jordan and Turkey took the bulk of the refugees there, and I think honestly the Hamas-sympathizing countries should take these Gazans now. We’re talking about Qatar. We’re talking about Iran. We’re talking about Turkey. They should stay in the region. There’s no reason for any refugees to come to America.”

By Monday, Trump had rolled out his take and called for general admission screenings of all immigrants and an interior effort to identify and deport non-U.S. citizens in the country who sympathized with Hamas.

Scott declared during an event in Washington Monday evening that setting new limits on immigration was an idea he supported.

“How do we make sure that our nation remains the greatest nation on God’s green Earth if we have no ability to discern who’s coming in our country?” Scott said during a Monday night event co-hosted by the Associated Press and Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service.

Trump took it a step further and vowed to restart a ban on immigration from select countries to an even broader extent than his administration attempted in early 2017.

Early on in office, Trump followed through on campaign vows to rein in legal and illegal immigration, including how he banned travelers from countries with a nexus to terrorist groups, which was publicly referred to as the “Muslim ban.” Despite being sued over the move, the Supreme Court eventually sided with Trump.

“Democrats fought us like crazy over the travel ban. You know that. They fought us like crazy. I had to go through the whole court system, but after 18 months in court, the Supreme Court finally ruled the travel ban was totally constitutional because we want to keep bad people out that want to destroy our country,” Trump said on Monday.

The U.S. and other countries have designated Hamas, the governing body of Palestinian territories, as a foreign terrorist organization, but Trump said he would target the entire region.

“If you want to abolish the state of Israel, you’re disqualified, if you support Hamas or the ideology behind Hamas, you’re disqualified, and if you’re a communist, Marxist, or fascist, you are disqualified,” the Republican front-runner said. “We aren’t bringing in anyone from Gaza, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, or Libya or anywhere else that threatens our security.”

Trump also vowed to send federal officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pro-jihadist demonstrations in the U.S. and “enforce our immigration laws and remove the violators from our country.”

“The mobs of … I mean, literally, barbarians that we saw on the streets of New York and other cities last week have no place in America,” Trump continued.

A spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee blasted Trump’s “xenophobic rhetoric.”


“The world is watching as Trump doubles down on his extreme, widely rejected Muslim ban, and his dangerous rhetoric has made it crystal clear that he has no business representing our country’s interests at home or abroad,” said DNC spokeswoman Sarafina Chitika told the Washington Examiner.

The campaigns for President Joe Biden, independent Robert F. Kennedy, and Republicans Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy did not respond to requests for comment.

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