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Florida governor Ron DeSantis rejects idea of Palestinian refugees in US

Republican presidential candidate and Florida governor Ron DeSantis has rejected accepting Palestinian refugees from Gaza to the US, speaking at a campaign rally in the US midwest on Saturday.

“We cannot accept people from Gaza into this country as refugees,” he said. “If you look how they behave … not all of them are Hamas but they are all antisemitic, none of them believe in Israel’s right to exist.”

DeSantis, who is tracking at around 12% support among Republican voters for the party’s nomination for next year’s presidential election – far below Donald Trump at 58%– spoke at a campaign rally in Creston, Iowa.

Last week, the Florida governor described a pro-Palestine demonstration in Tampa and a “Victory to Palestine” event in Fort Lauderdale as “abhorrent”.

In his comments Saturday, DeSantis called on neighboring Arab nations to “open their borders and absorb” Palestinian refugees.

Conflating Palestinian freedoms with support of Hamas, DeSantis attacked students at Harvard for their support of Palestinian and humanitarian causes and invoked reports of babies being murdered during the cross-border Hamas attack in Israel a week ago.

“We’ve got some serious problems in this country, and we’ve allowed a lot of them to fester. My view is simple: if you don’t like this country, if you hate America, you should not come to this country. We’ve got to start being smart about this,” he said.

DeSantis’s comments come as some Republicans have sought to amplify an anti-immigration agenda, with claims by Maga-extremists that the Biden administration’s US-Mexico border policy could allow foreign nationals sympathetic to radical Islamist causes into the US.

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The New York Post reported on Saturday that House Republicans had introduced new legislation to prevent the United States from accepting any new Palestinian refugees who might be fleeing the crisis in Gaza.

Tom Tiffany, one of the congressmembers behind the act, posted on social media: “We can’t let President Biden abuse our parole and visa rules to bring unvetted Palestinians into American communities the way he did with thousands of unvetted Afghans.”

The Gaza Act – Guaranteeing Aggressors Zero Admission Act – would also block the Department of Homeland Security from allowing Palestinians into the United States through the agency’s parole program.

Separately, the fraud-indicted New York congressman George Santos has said he was “berated” by anti-war activists at the US Capitol on Friday as they protested Israel’s retaliatory strikes in Gaza.

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A round-iush Latino man with dark hair and dark eyeglasses, wearing a dark mauve suit jacket over a sweater and collared shirt points with one finger as he appears to snarl in the direction of multiple hands holding out cellphones and microphones.George Santos in the Longworth House Office Building after allegedly being accosted by demonstrators, on 13 October 2023 in Washington DC. Photograph: Bryan Olin Dozier/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Capitol Police said they had arrested Shabd Khalsa, 36, and “charged him with simple assault after an officer witnessed him have physical contact with a congressional staffer in the Longworth Building”.

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Khalsa, who said he was Jewish American, said he had stepped back when Santos told him he was in his personal space. Khalsa told Newsday he was trying to ask what lawmakers were doing to stop attacks on “civilians by the Israeli army in Gaza”.

“My ancestors, entire branches of my family were killed in the Holocaust,” he told the outlet. “I’m here to say, you cannot weaponize Jewish pain to continue the mass murder of civilians in Gaza.”