Some Senators have started to demand answers from the Biden Administration with new reports showing hundreds of Afghan parolees simply walking off U.S. military bases without completing the required resettlement process, Fox News reports.
In a letter sent to Secretary Mayorkas, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, 16 Senate Republicans lead by Joni Ernst of Iowa state that the vetting procedure for the Afghan parolees "remain[s] unclear and incomplete, and, unless changed, are insufficient to preserve the safety of the American homeland."
It is essential to differentiate between what many in the media are reporting and the facts of immigration law in this case. The Afghans evacuated from the Kabul airport, by a vast majority, are random evacuees who were fortunate enough to make it into the airport during the fall of the country. They are not immigrants under U.S. Immigration law, instead considered humanitarian parolees; usually, this classification lasts one year and does not come with visas or work permits, though recipients can request work authorization. The Biden Administration has indicated that Afghan parolees will be given authorization to work in the United States.
A more notable distinction: These tens of thousands of Afghans are also not recipients of SIVs or Special Immigrant Visas. SIVs are a particular category of visas often awarded to foreign nationals who assist the U.S. in international war-making efforts, i.e., translators, informants, or others employed by the U.S. in that theater of operations who would have a reasonable fear of retribution under enemy rule. The Biden Administration's decision to follow the Taliban's deadline meant abandoning most SIV recipients in Afghanistan.
These Afghan parolees are expected to obtain resettlement services to complete their transition into the country; in fact, it has been reported that such services were a condition of the humanitarian parole, as was a vaccination against Covid-19. However, on Sunday, a report by Reuters stated that over 700 Afghan parolees have simply walked off U.S. bases without receiving those services.
That Reuters report was the crux of the Senator's letter.
Since the Afghan evacuees could technically not enter the U.S. without some sort of status adjustment, they were reportedly granted their parolee while in transit to the U.S. Already arriving in the U.S. with humanitarian parole means that individuals who leave these bases are not breaking the law, and military officials have no authority to detain them on base.
Because of this, the Senators are asking the Administration to issue a temporary halt to relocating Afghan parolees unless they have been thoroughly vetted and have been granted an official SIV. Further, the Senators are asking for this halt to last until the Department of Defense Inspector General completes a thorough review of the vetting process and briefs members of Congress.
The letter states:
We are concerned the hastily developed process creates gaps in security and criminal vetting and risks our nation's security. The vetting process must ensure the security, medical and criminal screening of each Afghan seeking admittance into the United States.
According to one DHS spokesperson who spoke with Fox News, explained:
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. 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. 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.
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Updated: Tue, Oct 19th 2021 @ 5:15pm EDT