Sen. Lankford pens letter to Biden admin demanding 'basic answers' on Afghan refugee vetting process

Sens. Rand Paul, Josh Hawley, Rick Scott, and Ron Johnson also signed the letter

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EXCLUSIVE: Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford was joined by several of his Republican colleagues in the Senate to send a letter to the Biden administration seeking answers on the vetting process for Afghan evacuees sent to the United States, following two criminal indictments filed against refugees housed at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy. 

In the letter, obtained by Fox News, Sen. Lankford, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Rick Scott, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson asked the Office of Management and Budget for answers on a request for funding to allow the Department of Homeland Security to change the legal status of Afghan evacuees on a case by case basis and waive grounds for inadmissibility used to determine if refugees pose a threat to the United States or its citizens.

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"Regarding Afghan nationals who have been resettled in the United States, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas issued a memorandum on August 23, 2021 instructing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to ‘parole certain Afghan nationals into the United States,’" the letter says.  ‘This memo explicitly notes that ‘some of these individuals were in various stages of processing for immigration status in the United States...but were not able to complete these processes because of the certain situation in Afghanistan.' While the Biden Administration has stated in briefings and in fact sheets that Afghan parolees undergo ‘biometric and biographic screening,’ the Biden Administration has yet to provide my staff, members of Congress, or the public with basic answers about its vetting procedures for Afghan parolees or demographic information about the Afghan parolee population."

The letter then outlined some of the "basic answers" that Lankford and his Republican colleagues in the Senate Homeland Security Committee are looking for. 

"How many Afghan nationals are waiting on background checks at a transit site? How many Afghan nationals have been paroled into the United States?" the Republican senators asked. "What specific categories, classes, or criteria constitute the Administration’s definition of "vulnerable Afghans"? How many individuals who have been paroled into the United States fall under each category, class, or criteria?"

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The letter took issue with the Office of Management and Budget’s guidance that requests an appropriation of $6.4 billion to support the Biden Administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

"Within that $6.4 billion request, OMB asks Congress to enact legislation that would allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to adjust the status of Afghan parolees and, on a case-by-case basis, ‘waive any applicable provision of Section 212 of the [Immigration and Nationality Act],’" the letter states.

"Your request to waive these grounds of inadmissibility raises significant questions about the Biden Administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal."

The request for answers from the Republican senators comes on the heels of two federal indictments being issued against two Afghan nationals being held at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. 

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Bahrullah Noori, a 20-year-old Afghan evacuee, is being charged with attempting to engage in a sexual act with a minor using force against that person along with three other counts of engaging in a sex act with a minor, according to a statement from the Department of Justice. Additionally, 32-year-old Mohammad Haroon Imaad is being charged with assaulting his wife by choking and suffocating her on September 17.

Lankford mentioned the arrests during a hearing Wednesday with DHS chief Alejandro Mayorkas.

"We already have reports of some of the locations where some Afghan parolees are being held that there’s been some sexual assaults that have happened in those locations, and we’re trying to get more information about that and to find out what happened to those individuals and where things go," Lankford said. 

Lankford's office tells Fox News that they reached out to the White House and DHS to see whether or not Noori and Imaad's parole had been terminated but neither could provide an answer.

Lankford also asked Mayorkas about the questions he had for OMB that he would later put into the letter sent to OMB Thursday. 

"OMB asked Congress to include in the CR next week that’s coming up next week, asked Congress to waive all grounds of inadmissibility for Afghan parolees," Lankford said. "I have to tell you I was a little astounded when I saw that to say they’d like to include that in there because the grounds for inadmissibility for Afghan parolees are things like terrorism, association with terrorist organizations, money laundering, human trafficking, drug trafficking, polygamy, prostitution, persecutor of individuals based on religious or political opinion, those who have commissioned torture or extra-judicial killings. I was a little astounded that OMB asked, ‘Would you waive all these grounds and allow us to be able to move people, regardless of these.’ Where did that request come from?"

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Mayorkas suggested that the guidance Lankford referenced is a "miscommunication."

"So there must be a miscommunication because we actually deny entry, we deny admission to individuals in many of those categories," Mayorkas said.