Portman on DHS OIG Report: Lack of Vetting of Afghan Evacuees Has Endangered Our Communities

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, expressed alarm in light of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report detailing the lack of vetting procedures for Afghan evacuee arrivals into the United States. This report follows a report by the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General that found that Afghan evacuees were not vetted using all available DoD data, resulting in significant security concerns. Portman highlighted that as we approach the 21st anniversary of 9/11, the United States faces an increased threat due to the this administration’s catastrophic evacuation of Afghans without rigorous vetting or an in-person interview. Portman released the following statement:

“It is very concerning that the OIG sent DHS a notice of the urgent need to take action to address security risks posed by Afghan evacuees already paroled into the United States and that DHS continues to deny there is a problem, even as the FBI is investigating evacuees paroled into our country that have been flagged as potential threats to our national security.

“I urge the administration to change course and accept the recommendations made by the OIG to immediately identify all evacuees from Afghanistan who are in the United States and provide evidence of full screening and vetting as well as develop a comprehensive plan for future emergency situations so they can account for, screen, vet, and inspect all individuals during unprecedented events.

“I am also alarmed but not surprised by the OIG’s findings that DHS did not thoroughly vet Afghan evacuees, Customs and Border Protection did not even have all of the data necessary to vet evacuees, and that the OIG questioned the available data for many of the 88,977 evacuee records. In fact, the OIG found that DHS’s screening and vetting policies for the Afghan evacuees was decided on an ad hoc basis with no standardized policy to ensure consistent processing.

“Last October, I raised concerns after committee oversight of the vetting operations identified many of these issues. I called for the administration to address the lack of appropriate screening and vetting and recognize that the dynamics in Afghanistan, with ISIS-K and Al Qaeda operating openly, should be reflected by ensuring the normal national security vetting processes are applied to all evacuees. Instead, this administration allowed a lack of effective screening of Afghan evacuees to endanger our communities and is now seeking to fast track their citizenship through the upcoming appropriations process.

“As I have said repeatedly, I support the resettlement of Afghans who stood in battle with us and our allies over the last 20 years but as we approach the 21st anniversary of 9/11, the United States faces an increased threat due to this administration’s catastrophic evacuation of Afghans without rigorous or thorough vetting.”