Republicans say steps in the vetting process for Afghan refugees were delayed and sometimes skipped.
An internal memo drafted for Republican members of the Senate Committee on Government Affairs and Homeland Security cautioned that the “standard security screening and investigation process” for refugees, including validation of identification documents and in-person interviews by a trained official , “It is not being followed during Afghan refugees”.
“In fact, federal officials relayed information about the process to Committee staff who raised a number of questions about the appropriateness of the selection and the investigation that was being carried out,” reads the memorandum, which was obtained by The Hill.
The memo was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for the Afghan refugee vetting process, while raising concerns about welcoming refugees to the US.
The United States officially withdrew from Afghanistan on August 31, ending the country’s longest war. More than 124,000 people were evacuated as part of the effort, the vast majority of whom were Afghans.
Officials in the Biden administration have criticized the Republican Party for its hypocrisy.
“Many of the same people who criticize us for bringing in Afghans were on television asking us to evacuate as many Afghans as possible in August,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne told The Hill in a statement.
When refugees arrive at military bases abroad, biographical and biometric data is collected and entered into a series of government databases that are used for screening purposes, a White House official told The Hill on Thursday. Those who are cleared to enter the US then board a flight and go through additional screening when they land.
Refugees who are flagged at any point in the process are then interviewed by law enforcement personnel.
Ten evacuees who arrived in the United States were singled out for being a security risk, the Journal reported.
The memo was drafted by Republican committee aides who traveled to Dulles Airport in Virginia, Fort Lee Air Force Base in Virginia, Ramstein Air Base in Germany and the Rota Naval Base in Spain earlier this month.
The attendees based their memo solely on interviews conducted with federal agents at the sites tasked with screening refugees.
According to the memo, attendees say Afghans without identification records were approved to travel to the US If an evacuee had identification, the selection process did not include validation beyond a visual inspection.
Officials also registered Afghans in tracking systems based on the data included in the identification or on the declared name or date of birth if there were no identification documents. The memo also said it was unclear whether federal officials abroad were conducting the investigative process with their counterparts “enough.”
Horne told The Hill that government and military personnel “worked around the clock in very difficult conditions” to evacuate as many people as possible in August.
“Our intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals are coordinating a rigorous review and security investigation for every Afghan before they are allowed to enter the United States, and the fact that some have been singled out by our professionals. Counterterrorism, intelligence or law enforcement for additional detection shows that our system is working, ”Horne said.