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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Hamas Refugee Assistance

Q: Did Obama pay for Hamas-affiliated terrorists to emigrate to the United States?

A: This claim is false. The president’s memorandum to the State Department would pay for refugee assistance in Gaza, not for transporting anyone to the U.S.


Have you guys checked on this one yet?

Apparently President Hope n’Change is lying through his pearly whites about our economy being in crisis. 

Our president just signed an executive order <http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-2488.htm> appropriating $20.3 million of your tax dollars for `migration assistance to the Palestinian refugees and conflict victims in Gaza.’ It was signed on January 27th and appeared in the Federal Register on February 4th.

This is designed to allow hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza to resettle in the United States,the same people who voted Hamas into power en masse. And I’ll guarantee you that a number of Hamas operatives will slip in as part of the group. The order not only provides free airplane tickets but provides for food and housing allowances, something no other immigrants get. …

We will see more of this… because part of Obama’s strategy involves pandering to the Muslim world and importing the sort of immigrants who will fundamentally change the electorate. …

This guy is either a Muslim, or he’s crazy and the 78% of American Jews who voted for him have some sort of personality disorder equating to a death wish.


This rumor stems from an article in the New Media Journal, a right-leaning site that describes itself as focused on "threats of aggressive Islamofascism and the American Fifth Column." (For the record, this site has posted other articles comparing Obama to Hitler and calling Islam "a pathological doctrine and a vestige of long ago barbarism.") The article in question claims that President Obama has signed an executive order allocating $20.3 million for refugees in Gaza, but that "few on Capitol Hill took note that the order provides a free ticket replete with housing and food allowances to individuals who have displayed their overwhelming support of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in the parliamentary election of January 2006."

Obama did indeed sign a memorandum (functionally identical to an executive order) allocating $20.3 million from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for refugees and conflict victims in Gaza. ERMA allows the president to appropriate any amount up to $100 million to meet "unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs." The money drawn down from ERMA is put to use by the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. But in this case, the money would provide humanitarian aid, not migration assistance.

PRM does bring refugees from some countries to the United States, and also provides for their basic necessities when they first arrive. But a spokesperson for PRM told us that there is no resettlement program for Palestinian refugees. "We don’t resettle out of the West Bank and Gaza, full stop," the spokesperson told us.

Instead, PRM contributes funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which provides humanitarian aid such as food, schooling and medical care for Palestinian refugees, primarily in Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank. In FY2008, UNRWA received about $80 million from the United States, its largest single-country donor. The State Department has announced that the bulk of the new ERMA appropriation – $13.5 million – will go to UNRWA.

The State Department requires UNRWA to certify that U.S. funds are not supplying terrorists or terrorists in training, but it is true that UNRWA has been accused of supporting and employing Hamas sympathizers. Most recently, a January 2009 report by former UNRWA legal adviser James Lindsay concluded that the agency has shown an "increasing identification with Palestinian political views," and that "UNRWA has taken very few steps to detect and eliminate terrorists from the ranks of its staff or its beneficiaries, and no steps at all to prevent members of terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, from joining its staff."

In any event, neither UNRWA nor the State Department is bringing Gaza or West Bank refugees into the United States at taxpayer expense. Nor is this the first time that a U.S. president has allotted EMRA funds for Palestinian refugees. According to the most recent report from PRM, President George W. Bush drew down emergency funds for UNRWA to the tune of $20 million in fiscal year 2002, $26 million in 2003, $40 million in 2004, $20 million in 2005 and $20 million in 2007.

-Jess Henig


Williams, Paul L. "Pres. Obama Invites Hamas Terrorists to America." The New Media Journal. 7 Feb. 2009.

Lindsay, James G. "Fixing UNRWA: Repairing the UN’s Troubled System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees." Jan. 2009.

United States Department of State Migration and Refugee Assistance. "Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fiscal Year 2009 Congressional Presentation Document." 6 Sep. 2008.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. "Programme Budget 2008-2009 Executive Summary." Jul. 2007.

Gootnick, David. "Department of State (State) and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Actions to Implement Section 301(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961." United States Government Accountability Office. 17 Nov. 2003.