WASHINGTON – After it was reported that at least 700 Afghan evacuees have left military bases before undergoing proper and necessary vetting, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is demanding answers from the Biden Administration. Ernst led 15 of her Senate colleagues in a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, calling the Biden Administration’s current vetting procedures unclear and incomplete, putting the safety of Americans at risk.
In the letter, the senators write, “We are concerned the hastily developed process creates gaps in security and criminal vetting and risks our Nation’s security. We urge that you pause relocating any more Afghan evacuees to the United States, except for fully-vetted Afghans holding Special Immigration Visas (SIV), and complete all appropriate vetting procedures at safe locations abroad.”
They go on to say, “Afghans selected to board American military planes in Kabul did not complete the long-established interagency vetting processes […]. Instead, much of the vetting is occurring on military bases on U.S. soil. Furthermore, the State Department’s inability to facilitate or process SIV applicants on-ground, those that aided American operations in Afghanistan, fails our partners and breaks promises made to those who put themselves and their families at significant risk to aid U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.
The lawmakers continue, “The vetting process must ensure the security, medical, and criminal screening of each Afghan seeking admittance into the United States. DHS also needs to clarify exactly what actions will be taken when derogatory information is uncovered on an Afghan already paroled into the United States—we cannot release a potential terrorist into the United States, but returning such an individual to Afghanistan where he or she can cause further harm is also not an acceptable solution.”
Read the full letter below:1DF337A253726C4D78E1981453C4A5F9.senator-ernst-letter-to-dhs-and-dod-on-afghan-vetting-pdf