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U.S. vetting Afghan refugees with biometrics but uncertain of some identities, memos show

‘We don’t know at first blush if someone is the seventh-cousin of bin Laden or a Good Samaritan,’ official says.

Published: August 20, 2021 3:29pm

Updated: August 20, 2021 11:29pm

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is processing airlifted Afghan refugees in locations like Germany, Bahrain and Qatar before sending them to the Washington D.C.-area Dulles International airport, using biometrics when possible to identify those without official travel papers, according to internal memos obtained by Just the News.

The memos acknowledge all refugees are being screened for COVID-19 after they arrive in the United States, and some may be arriving without their identities ascertained.

"Some undocumented non-citizens who arrive in the United States will require additional processing, which is currently being finalized," a memo sent Friday to CPB staff stated. "DOS expects a strong possibility for the numbers of undocumented subjects to increase as the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate."

The memos show about 40 CPB officers have bene sent to Qatar, 31 to Germany and 31 to Bahrain to handle initial screenings offshore, and that as of Friday "personnel overseas have already screened over 850 passengers."

"As of today, all passengers are being processed through Washington Dulles International Airport and are COVID screened by the CDC or Virginia Health at the airport," the memo also stated.

State Department officials acknowledged Thursday that Afghans aren’t being screen for COVID before departing their chaotic, Taliban-controlled country on U.S. military transport aircraft.

One senior immigration official told Just the News that CPB officers on the frontlines are aware of the challenges of screening Afghan refugees and that biometrics will help identify only a certain number.

Catching those with terrorist sympathies or training is the highest priority, the official said.

"Most are leaving Afghanistan in a hurry, without travel papers, passports or birth certificates," the official explained. "We are flying blind in a proverbial rainstorm with lots of heavy fog. We don’t know at first blush if someone is the seventh-cousin of bin Laden or a Good Samaritan. It’s going to be tedious work.”

The official said one method of stopping dangerous individuals will be CPB agents checking a Defense Department database for anyone whose fingerprints or DNA were found on known terrorist bombs, bomb-making materials or Improvised Explosive Devices.

A memo sent earlier this week asked the agents to volunteer for duty, warning the work of processing Afghan refugees will be long and painstaking and that the duty carried no special promotions opportunities.

"Eligible candidates must be familiar with CBP vetting systems and mobile applications for arriving passengers; in possession of an official passport; are requested but not required to speak the Dari, Pashtu, and Arabic languages; and must be available to deploy within 2-3 days of selection,” the memo stated.

"Officers are expected to be able to perform all assigned duties and may be required to work irregular shifts up to 7 days per week, holidays and weekends, and possible alternative work schedules,” the memo also stated. "Duty assignments and work location will be determined upon arrival in country."

The memo Friday stated that CPB had set up a command center for the refugee operation – dubbed Operation Allies Refuge – and that the center is being run by Port Director Dylan Defrancisci.

The memos also made glancing reference to the impact of the Biden administration’s bungled exit strategy, calling it a "rapidly unfolding and sobering" moment in Afghanistan that could be particularly disturbing to veterans who served in the war."

"We know the footage in Afghanistan is unsettling and may stir up mixed emotions, especially for our service members," one memo stated.

Officials offered help ranging from chaplains to "a safe space to talk or share your concerns."

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