Two Republican senators recently drafted letters highlighting ongoing issues with Afghan evacuees being improperly resettled in the United States. While addressing separate components, both senators touched on the myriad issues surrounding the Biden administration’s decision to bring tens of thousands of unvetted Afghans into the country following our botched withdrawal from Kabul in August.
Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and 15 of her Republican colleagues sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in response to reports that Afghan evacuees are leaving U.S. military bases without proper vetting or background checks. Senator Ernst wrote:
Afghans selected to board American military planes in Kabul did not complete the long-established interagency vetting processes… Accounts of older men admitted with young girls claimed as “brides,” coupled with the testimony of Afghan girls alleging rape and forced marriage by older men as a precondition for escaping Afghanistan, must be urgently investigated. Recently, two Afghan men at Fort McCoy were charged with sexual assault of minors and domestic violence. And just last week a group of male Afghan refugees temporarily housed at the Dona Ana army complex in New Mexico assaulted a female service member. The vetting process must ensure the security, medical, and criminal screening of each Afghan seeking admittance into the United States.
Many organizations, politicians, and individuals support providing assistance to Afghans who assisted or worked alongside the U.S. military and our allies during the two decades of conflict in Afghanistan. That is why the U.S. established the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV). But the fact is that the vast majority of Afghans who escaped Kabul in August were not SIV holders or applicants. Secretary Mayorkas admitted that only three percent of Afghan evacuees are SIV recipients or applicants. Who makes up the other 97 percent? We do not know.
Reuters recently reported that over 700 Afghans chose to leave temporary housing before registering with refugee resettlement organizations. The report reads that “hundreds of [Afghans] are simply leaving before receiving U.S. resettlement services… the phenomenon is raising alarms among immigration advocates concerned about the risks to Afghans who give up on what is now an open-ended, complex and completely voluntary resettlement process.” Prior to Reuters’ reporting, Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) told media outlets that federal authorities allowed Afghans housed at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy to leave the base whenever they pleased.
In a separate but related letter, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) demanded answers to seven questions from Secretary Mayorkas regarding these independent departures. Just as Senator Ernst did, Senator Cotton cited numerous reports of crimes committed by Afghan evacuees now in the United States. Senator Cotton writes:
The U.S. government is currently investigating multiple crimes committed in evacuee facilities… Even previously-deported criminals – including an Afghan who had previously been convicted of rape in the United States, and another who had previously been convicted of aggravated robbery – were airlifted back to the United States. In light of these reports, it is alarming that hundreds of Afghan evacuees have reportedly left U.S. military bases directly into our communities, possibly before completing our vetting and immigration processes.
The separate letters from Senators Ernst and Cotton emphasize the disturbing reality of our country’s mismanagement of the Kabul evacuation. Rather than holding unscreened, anonymous Afghan evacuees in nearby allied countries or offshore U.S. territories like Guam, we brought them straight to the United States. We have no way of verifying or cross-checking information from evacuees because we do not have any continued presence in Afghanistan and we destroyed countless records before abandoning the embassy and our military installations.
Every single Afghan who made it to an American outbound flight is here to stay – period. Aside from the 3 percent of those who hold bona fide SIV status, we do not have a clue as to who these people are and what their relationship to the United States is. This situation is not going away anytime soon, and senators from both parties, not just Republicans, must begin holding the Biden administration accountable for the consequences of the ongoing situation with unvetted Afghan evacuees.