Republican Senators Demand Answers from Biden on Afghanistan Refugee Vetting Process

People arrive at a processing center for refugees evacuated from Afghanistan at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va., August 23, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A group of Republican senators are demanding answers regarding the vetting process the Biden administration is using to evaluate the thousands of refugees who escaped from Afghanistan in recent weeks.

The lawmakers sent a letter to the White House on Thursday accusing Biden of causing a humanitarian crisis by botching the U.S. military withdrawal and leaving hundreds of Americans and thousands of Afghan allies behind in the war-torn country.

The lawmakers noted that only 4.5 percent of total escapees were “self-identified” American citizens and less than 50 percent of rescued Afghans had obtained or applied for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), leaving the identities and statuses of thousands of individuals ambiguous and unaccounted for. Their concerns have been compounded by the fact that the administration has not disclosed the exact number of Afghan allies who were airlifted out, they added in the letter, which was obtained by Politico.

“We are also concerned by reports that ineligible individuals, including Afghans with ties to terrorist organizations or serious, violent criminals, were evacuated alongside innocent refugee families,” they said.

Setting a deadline for early next week, the senators demanded Biden clear up confusion surrounding how many Americans, green-card holders, SIV applicants, remain in Afghanistan. They also asked the administration to explain how many Afghans were evacuated despite having “no pending immigration application or status with the United States prior to being airlifted.”

According to the letter, 57,000 evacuated Afghans did not fit into any of the three categories qualifying for relocation to the United States. As for those in the unknown population, the legislators asked for more information about how their identities are being verified and screened for problematic connections and histories such as criminal records and national security red flags.

Citing a recent Washington Times article, the senators questioned Biden on a reported convicted rapist, who was incarcerated in the U.S. before being deported, and why he was “flown to the national capital region” as part of the rescue mission.

“Was that individual vetted before being flown to the United States? If so, was his criminal record found and ignored, or was it not found in the first place?,” they asked.

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