Senate Republicans have written an urgent letter demanding answers after at least 700 Afghan refugees reportedly walked off U.S. military bases and disappeared while awaiting resettlement services.
The letter was sent to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Sixteen Republican senators who were led by Sen. Joni Ernst (IA) argued that the vetting procedures surrounding Afghan evacuees “remain unclear and incomplete, and, unless changed, are insufficient to preserve the safety of the American homeland.”
“We are concerned the hastily developed process creates gaps in security and criminal vetting and risks our nation’s security,” the letter contends. “The vetting process must ensure the security, medical and criminal screening of each Afghan seeking admittance into the United States.”
“We urge that you pause relocating any more Afghan evacuees to the United States, except for fully-vetted Afghans holding Special Immigration Visas (SIV), and complete all appropriate vetting procedures at safe locations abroad,” the letter added.
The Biden Administration’s current vetting process for Afghan evacuees coming to the U.S. is unclear and incomplete, putting the safety of Americans at risk.
I’m demanding answers from @DHSgov & the Pentagon. https://t.co/IOZdSNU5Ip pic.twitter.com/LLUU0JyzuK
— Joni Ernst (@SenJoniErnst) October 4, 2021
Hundreds of Afghan evacuees have allegedly just walked off military bases before being vetted.
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) October 4, 2021
“Afghans selected to board American military planes in Kabul did not complete the long-established interagency vetting processes…” they wrote in the letter. “Instead, much of the vetting is occurring on military bases on U.S. soil.”
“Furthermore, the State Department’s inability to facilitate or process SIV applicants on-ground, those that aided American operations in Afghanistan, fails our partners and breaks promises made to those who put themselves and their families at significant risk to aid U.S. efforts in Afghanistan,” the letter continued.
“The vetting process must ensure the security, medical, and criminal screening of each Afghan seeking admittance into the United States,” wrote the senators.
“DHS also needs to clarify exactly what actions will be taken when derogatory information is uncovered on an Afghan already paroled into the United States – we cannot release a potential terrorist into the United States, but returning such an individual to Afghanistan where he or she can cause further harm is also not an acceptable solution,” they blunted posited.
As the catastrophic and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan unfolded, evacuees were housed on U.S. military bases and given the temporary status of “humanitarian parole.” They were then to undergo the process of resettlement for transition into the country.
Reuters released an alarming report on Saturday that asserted that at least 700 Afghan evacuees had simply walked away from military bases without completing the resettlement process.
(Video Credit: Reuters)
So-called immigration experts told Reuters that the evacuees are not breaking the law by leaving and military officials can’t stop them from going their own way.
The senators are very concerned about the development because they don’t believe the Afghan evacuees have been fully vetted.
DHS was quick to tell Fox News that all Afghan evacuees on military bases were fully vetted before they arrived in the United States.
“Afghan guests who receive required vaccinations, complete their medical screening, and await their relocation arrangements at safe havens are eligible for various forms of assistance, which is why an overwhelming majority of Afghans remain at safe havens across the country,” a DHS spokesperson said. “If they choose to leave the military base, they are responsible for completing the medical requirements on their own, may forfeit other benefits, and could be in violation of their parole.”
“Before arriving at safe havens, these individuals underwent a multi-layer screening and vetting process involving biometric and biographic screenings conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals from the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, as well as, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and additional Intelligence Community (IC) partners before they were permitted entry into the United States,” the spokesperson added. “Furthermore, those with pending immigration cases are required to maintain contact with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to keep their pending case in good status.”
DHS stressed that all new arrivals are being tested for COVID and vaccinated.
More than 300 of the so-called “independent departures” have allegedly occurred at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas according to Reuters. Fort Bliss is one of eight domestic bases where the Biden administration has housed 53,000 Afghans who fled their country on evacuation flights. The base is where a female soldier recently claimed she was assaulted by a group of male Afghan refugees when arriving for duty.
Reports of Afghans leaving military bases surfaced in early September after Republican Tennessee Rep. Mark Green said sources with knowledge about the situation told him that some Afghans were leaving bases without permission by way of ride-sharing services such as Uber.
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