WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, praised the Committee adoption of his amendment to the Inspector General Independence and Empowerment Act of 2021 to ensure thorough oversight of the efforts to screen, vet, and process the evacuees from Afghanistan prior to their resettlement in the United States. The amendment directs the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security to carry out the oversight of the screening, vetting, and processing of the evacuees, an operation that is being coordinated by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. In sworn testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Secretary Mayorkas claimed there was a “robust screening and vetting process…both in the transit countries and here domestically.” A subsequent, unclassified briefing with federal officials from all relevant national security agencies confirmed that Secretary Mayorkas’ statement was not accurate. The briefing confirmed information learned through Committee oversight that, unless an evacuee was a known terrorist, terrorist affiliate, or criminal whose name, face, or fingerprints pinged the systems available to federal officials, there was not rigorous vetting or an in-person interview. By ensuring independent oversight of the vetting process, this amendment will work to increase the safety and security of both the evacuees and the American communities receiving them.
“We have a moral responsibility to welcome the Afghan evacuees who have stood by us for 20 years, but we also have an obligation to ensure the safety and security of American citizens through proper oversight. The catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan made it clear that we must have independent oversight of the screening and vetting of the evacuees,” said Portman. “In the two months since the evacuation, we have confirmed through congressional oversight and a briefing from federal officials that most of the evacuees did not receive the standard vetting interviews that all refugees would normally receive and that individuals that pose national security threats made it to our shores. In fact, the administration still cannot provide basic information regarding the number and status of the evacuees. That’s why I’m pleased the Committee adopted this amendment to the Inspector General Independence and Empowerment Act of 2021 to ensure that appropriate Inspectors General oversight is carried out regarding the vetting and processing of the Afghan evacuees prior to their resettlement into our communities.”