On Thursday, Mr Zinke introduced the Safeguarding Americans from Extremism (SAFE) Act which would put a pause on all visas, refugee status and asylum grants for any person with a Palestinian passport and revoke entry for those granted visas on or after 1 October.
Hamas is not necessarily synonymous with Palestinians. It is an Islamic militant group that controls the Gaza Strip without the full support of the Palestinian population.
Though Mr Zinke claims his proposed legislation is for safety measures, other members of Congress and activists say it is racist.
“This is the textbook definition of racism,” California Rep Barbara Lee wrote on X.
New York Rep Ritchie Torres said he would vote against “any and all” legislation that discriminates on the basis of race, ethnicity or nationality.
“Anti-Palestinian hate and Islamophobia has no place in America. None,” Mr Torres wrote.
I will vote against any and all legislation that discriminates on the basis of race, ethnicity, or nationality.
Anti-Palestinian hate and Islamophobia has no place in America. None. https://t.co/jHfXsiad7C
— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) November 3, 2023
More than 2 million Palestinians have been displaced from Gaza since Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October. Shortly after the initial attack, Israel began restricting access to clean water, food, fuel and medical care in Gaza.
In recent weeks, airstrikes and a ground invasion by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have escalated the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, sparking outrage across the world.
Hundreds of Palestinians are trying to flee the violence in Gaza by entering Egypt to seek asylum in other countries. But on Friday, Hamas reportedly delayed foreign passport-holding Palestinians from crossing so wounded Hamas fighters could reach medical attention, according to The New York Times.
Iman Abid, the director of advocacy of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, wrote on Twitter that Mr Zinke’s legislation to force Palestinians out of the US would leave civilians without a place to go.
Learning absolutely nothing from the horrific EO 9066 against Japanese Americans, this racist GOP member wants to ban and expel Palestinian Americans from the United States.
The bigoted bill already has 10 GOP Co-Sponsors. Absurd. pic.twitter.com/6nPfG0joeZ
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@QasimRashid) November 3, 2023
“I don’t know where he thinks [we’re going.] Allow us back onto our family land then,” Ms Abid said.
Sherrilyn Ifill, an attorney and former president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said on X that Mr Zinke is “not fit for public service” and called the piece of proposed legislation a “degrading act of xenophobic public targeting.”
Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, former Trump Interior Secretary, introduced a bill "To expel Palestinians from the United States."
This is pure and blatant racism. This should be condemned by all. It has nothing to do with support for Israel and the Jewish community. pic.twitter.com/D8iKBBW6Fi
— Republicans against Trump (@RpsAgainstTrump) November 4, 2023
Republicans Against Trump called Mr Zinke’s legislation “pure and blatant racism” and added that it has “nothing to do with support for Israel and the Jewish community.”
In an interview with Fox News, Mr Zinke said he has no “hard feelings” toward Palestinians but that the legislation is necessary to prevent attacks in the US.
Several other Republicans have co-signed Mr Zinke’s legislation including Marjorie Taylor Greene, Andy Biggs, Ronny Jackson, Andy Harris and more.