(Headline USA) In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., warned that he had received notice of Afghan refugees escaping into the US mainland before having been formally vetted and resettled.
It came amid several recent investigations of sexual assaults and child trafficking among the evacuees.
“A more extensive review and vetting process is absolutely essential for the tens of thousands of unknown Afghans who were airlifted during the evacuation,” Cotton wrote.
The Biden administration said it plans to import some 95,000 Afghan refugees to the US in total.
Already, several red-flags have arisen about the unsavory character of the Afghanis brought to US military bases throughout the country.
There are about 53,000 Afghans currently staying at eight U.S. military bases and receiving medical care and other assistance before they settle around the U.S.
Cotton noted several reports of sexual assaults had taken place. The U.S. government is currently investigating multiple crimes committed in evacuee facilities,” he wrote.
Among the shocking incidents thus far:
- “The American people have seen reports of a group of male Afghan evacuees assaulting a female servicemember at a Fort Bliss facility in New Mexico.”
- “An Afghan evacuee allegedly sexually assaulted young boys at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. Another Afghan evacuee reportedly choked his wife at Fort McCoy.”
- “The State Department has raised concerns about child trafficking by older Afghan men. 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.”
Despite the red-flag warning signs, however, the Biden administration was moving full-steam ahead on the evacuation process after previously delaying the transfer of many evacuees in Europe due to a measles outbreak.
Afghan refugees will soon be arriving again following the three-week pause, officials said Monday.
Authorities have administered the vaccination to about 49,000 evacuees staying temporarily on American military bases as well as to those still at transit points in Europe and the Middle East, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The measles outbreak, detected in 24 people, had put on hold one of the largest refugee resettlement efforts in U.S. history, dubbed Operation Allies Welcome. It also stranded about 15,000 at overseas transit points.
“The success of this vaccination campaign demonstrates our commitment to the health and well-being of arriving Afghan evacuees, the personnel assisting this mission, and the American people,” Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, the DHS chief medical officer, said in announcing the completion of the effort.
Everyone coming from Afghanistan is also tested for COVID-19. About 84% of the refugees in the U.S. and at overseas transit points have now received vaccinations against the coronavirus, officials said.
The U.S. evacuated about 120,000 people in the chaotic days following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August. They were a mix of U.S. citizens, Afghans with legal permanent residency or who were applying for visas and refugee status along with their families.
Testifying before Congress last week, Mayorkas said the U.S. has admitted about 60,000 people from the airlift out of Afghanistan, about 7% of whom are American citizens and about 6% of whom are permanent residents.
About 3% have, along with their families, received the special immigrant visa for people who worked for the U.S. government or its allies during the war as interpreters or in some other capacity.
The rest are a combination of people who are in the process of finalizing their special immigrant visas or are considered likely candidates for refugee status because they are human rights activists, journalists or others who are considered particularly vulnerable under Taliban rule or for some other reasons.
DHS claims a majority of the Afghans being resettled in the U.S. worked for the country in some form or are related to someone who did. The agency projects at least 40% are eligible for the special immigrant visa.
Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Thursday that about 4,000 Afghans at the U.S. bases have completed medical screening and the 21-day quarantine required after receiving the vaccine for measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox that most Americans receive in childhood, and should be setting in their new homes in the coming days.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press