DHS Secretary: 'We Do Have a Robust Screening and Vetting Process' for Afghan Evacuees

By Susan Jones | September 21, 2021 | 11:29am EDT
Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport on August 27, 2021 in Chantilly, Virginia after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport on August 27, 2021 in Chantilly, Virginia after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Very few of the Afghans arriving in this country are American citizens, lawful permanent residents, or special immigrant visa holders -- "the people who actually helped us," Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday.

He noted that around 75 percent of the 60,000 people evacuated to the United States from Afghanistan so are are designated as "parolees," or vulnerable Afghans; they are not American citizens, green card holders, or special immigrant visa holders.

Portman asked Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, "Does it concern you that we don't have in place a way to properly vet and handle these individuals, including allowing these individuals, you know, to walk off the military bases if they choose to do so, today?"

Mayorkas responded:

So we do have a robust screening and vetting process in addition to expertise both in the transit countries and here domestically to ensure the safety and security of the American people. 

Let me say with respect to the population of individuals who are not American citizens, lawful permanent residents or special immigrant visa holders, we also have in that remaining population individuals who applied for special immigrant visas but whose applications had not yet been completed at the time of the evacuation.

We have individuals who had been employed locally in Afghanistan by the United States who have assisted us in Afghanistan. We have other individuals who qualify for special immigrant visa status, individuals who qualify for P1 or P2 classification of refugees, so it's a very mixed population. And we screen and vet that remaining group as we screen and vet all.

Portman wanted to follow up, but his time ran out for the first round of questioning.

In his remarks to Mayorkas, the senator expressed frustration that of the 60,000 evacuees brought to this country so far, about 6,500 (11 percent ) are American citizens; about 3,500 (just under 6 percent) are lawful permanent residents; and about 3,000 (5.5 percent) are people with visas, including SIVs.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) asked Mayorkas how many Afghan refugees have been denied admission to the United States since August first:

"I don't have that number at my fingertips, but it's very de minimus," Mayorkas said.

Mayorkas added, "We have not found many people with derogatory information relative to those who qualify for admission to the United States by reason of their status."

Scott asked if the vetting does turn up problems, "how could you send them home?"

Mayorkas said there are "a number of options," including "seeking their voluntary return to a third country," or deporting them. "We would indeed seek their removal from the United States," he said.

 

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