FIRST ON FOX: Senate Republicans are demanding answers from the Biden administration amid reports that hundreds of Afghan evacuees are walking off U.S. military bases without completing the resettlement process.
In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, a group of 16 Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, argue that the security vetting procedures to clear Afghan evacuees “remain unclear and incomplete, and, unless changed, are insufficient to preserve the safety of the American homeland.”
DHS: HUNDREDS OF AFGHAN EVACUEES ARE LEAVING MILITARY BASES IN THE US WITHOUT COMPLETING RESETTLEMENT
Many Afghan evacuees brought to U.S. military bases during the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August were given the temporary status of “humanitarian parole” and then were expected to obtain resettlement services to complete their transition into the country. The senators’ letter demanding more information follows a report Saturday by Reuters that said at least 700 Afghan evacuees left U.S. bases without receiving those services.
While immigration experts told Reuters that those individuals are not breaking the law and that military officials have no legal authority to detain law-abiding Afghans, the senators worry some evacuees are slipping through alleged cracks in the vetting process. They’re asking the administration to temporarily halt relocating Afghan evacuees to the U.S. unless they are fully vetted Afghans holding Special Immigration Visas, and to pause resettlement of Afghans already paroled into the U.S. until the Department of Defense Inspector General completes a thorough review of the vetting process and briefs members of Congress.
“We are concerned the hastily developed process creates gaps in security and criminal vetting and risks our nation’s security,” the letter states. “The vetting process must ensure the security, medical and criminal screening of each Afghan seeking admittance into the United States.”
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A DHS spokesperson told Fox News that all Afghan evacuees at U.S. military bases had to undergo the screening process before arriving in the country.
“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,” the 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 continued. “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.”
The DHS added that all arrivals are being tested for COVID-19 and that Afghan nationals are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of their humanitarian parole.