Senate Republicans on Monday wrote to top Biden administration officials asking for clarification about refugee resettlement procedures after Reuters reported that hundreds of Afghan evacuees had left U.S. bases without receiving resettlement services.
A group of over one dozen Republican senators, which was organized by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, wrote in the letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that the procedures for vetting evacuees “remain unclear and incomplete, and, unless changed, are insufficient to preserve the safety of the American homeland,” according to Fox News.
Reuters noted in its report that immigration experts say no laws are being broken by evacuees leaving military bases, and said that military officials have no legal authority to detain them. The senators asked the Biden administration to halt the resettlement of Afghan evacuees unless they have a Special Immigration Visa and have been completely vetted and until after the Department of Defense Inspector General conducts a review of the process.
“We are concerned the hastily developed process creates gaps in security and criminal vetting and risks our nation’s security,” the letter adds. “The vetting process must ensure the security, medical and criminal screening of each Afghan seeking admittance into the United States.”
In a statement to Fox News, a spokesperson for DHS said that all Afghan evacuees being brought to U.S. military bases are screened before they enter the country, which includes all arrivals being tested for COVID-19, and noted that all Afghan nationals must be fully vaccinated in order to gain humanitarian parole.
“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,” they 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.”