Homeland Security watchdog finds Afghan refugees admitted to US without proper vetting

The government does not have a list of Afghan evacuees who could not provide sufficient identification documents, the watchdog found.

Updated: September 7, 2022 - 2:12pm

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The Department of Homeland Security failed to vet Afghan evacuees entering the country following the U.S. military's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, according to a new federal watchdog report.

The department's Office of Inspector General said in its report released Tuesday that over 79,000 Afghan refugees entered the United States from July 21, when the Taliban was toppling the Afghanistan government and military, until January of this year.

However, Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the department, admitted or "paroled" into the U.S. evacuees who who were "not fully vetted." 

The 34-page, partially-redacted report says "dozens" of evacuees with known "derogatory information" were allowed into the U.S.

The report found "one evacuee into the United States who had been liberated from prison in Afghanistan by the Taliban in August 2021." The individual has since been removed from the country.

The evacuation was accelerated and turned chaotic as a result of suicide bombing in August of last year at a Kabul-area airport, which killed 13 U.S. service members and sent Afghans flocking to the airport in an attempt to flee from their country. 

The agency's inspector general made two recommendations to Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection: to identify and as necessary to vet Afghan evacuees in the U.S. and to establish a contingency plan for a similar emergency.

However, both agencies did not concur with any of the recommendations and requested for the matters to be considered closed.

The watchdog concluded Homeland Security's No. 1 challenge was that it did not have a list of Afghan evacuees who could not provide sufficient identification documents.

Another conclusion was that the department did not adequately plan nor did it have standardized policies and as a result  individuals "who pose a risk to national security and the safety of local communities" may have been admitted.

Customs and Border Protection defended itself by asserting it "provided evidence" to the inspector general that all evacuees were "screened, vetted, and inspected," including through the gathering of biometric data.