A group of 16 Senate Republicans are demanding answers from the Biden administration following reports that hundreds of Afghan evacuees have left U.S. military bases without going through the resettlement process.
Republican Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst led 15 other Senate Republicans in a letter Monday to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, outlining concerns that the current vetting process for Afghan evacuees is “unclear and incomplete.”
“We urge that you pause relocating any more Afghan evacuees to the United States, except for fully-vetted Afghans holding Special Immigration Visas, and complete all appropriate vetting procedures at safe locations abroad,” the senators wrote.
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.
— Joni Ernst (@SenJoniErnst) October 4, 2021
More than 60,000 Afghan evacuees were brought to military installations across the U.S. amid the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August. Many have been given temporary status, known as humanitarian parole, in order to go through resettlement.
But an exclusive report by Reuters on Saturday indicated at least 700 Afghan evacuees had left U.S. military installations without completing their resettlement process. Immigration experts told Reuters the evacuees aren’t necessarily breaking the law, but the senators noted concerns in their letter that some evacuees could be slipping past the vetting process. (RELATED: How Is The Biden Administration Vetting Afghan Refugees?)
At least 100 Afghan evacuees looking to enter the U.S. were flagged for terrorist ties in early September. A number of Afghans were required to go through additional counterterrorism screening measures while in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody.
“We are concerned the hastily developed process creates gaps in security and criminal vetting and risks our nation’s security,” the senators wrote. “The vetting process must ensure the security, medical and criminal screening of each Afghan seeking admittance into the United States.”
Ernst and her Republican colleagues urged the Biden administration to temporarily halt the paroling of Afghan evacuees into the U.S. until the Department of Defense Inspector General completes a review of the vetting process.