In a recent Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas faced tough questions regarding the status of foreign students participating in pro-Hamas rallies on college campuses across the United States. The issue has sparked a heated debate, with Republicans pushing for the revocation of F-1 student visas for those involved.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) took the lead in questioning Mayorkas during the hearing, pressing him on whether the visas of pro-Hamas foreign students should be revoked. 

“My question to you is, should students who are here on a visa who gather and chant [from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free] and advocate for the elimination of Israel and attacks on Jewish individuals — whether in the Middle East or here in the United States, which we’re seeing on college campuses — should those students have their visas revoked?” asked.

Mayorkas replied, “Senator, I believe you are referencing a provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act about which you have written to me and I am very familiar with your assertion that the statutory provision requires the revocation of their visas.”

The Missouri congressman repeated his question; however, Mayorkas responded cautiously, stating that the issue hinges on the “legal interpretation of the statute” and refraining from providing a definitive answer.

Hawley continued to press the Biden admin official, emphasizing the moral dimension of the issue. “Well, just as a moral matter, should students who are here — foreigners who are here in this country — accessing our university system and advocating for the killing of Jews, should they be allowed to stay here at our leisure?which we’re seeing on college campuses — should those students have their visas revoked?” he asked.

Mayorkas, however, maintained that it was a matter of law and required legal interpretation, avoiding a clear moral stance.

This exchange comes after rallies and protests in support of the foreign terrorist organization and Palestinians have erupted on college and university campuses throughout the nation in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas on Israel. This surge in pro-Hamas sentiment has drawn attention to the immigration status of some of the participants, with calls for their visas to be revoked.

Republican senators, including Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), are taking action in the form of a resolution urging the Biden administration to revoke the visas of foreign nationals in the U.S. who are involved in pro-Hamas demonstrations. Additionally, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rubio have written to top Biden officials at the State Department and the DHS, urging them to swiftly revoke visas and deport pro-Hamas foreign students.

The issue has also gained attention from two Republican presidential candidates, Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who stated last week Monday that foreign nationals on student visas participating in pro-Hamas demonstrations should have their visas revoked and be sent home.

The Biden administration’s stance on the issue, as conveyed by John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council (NSC), is that they do not intend to revoke visas for pro-Hamas foreign students. 

“… you don’t have to agree with every sentiment that is expressed in a free country like this to stand by … the idea [of] the First Amendment and the idea of peaceful protest,” Kirby asserted.