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Vetting Afghans

One of the concerns about the Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA) by some critics is the vetting issue. According to some government reports, news media reports, and critics some of the Afghan refugees did not undergo a thorough vetting process before being resettled in U.S. communities across the country.

The cited government reports state there were a small minority of the Afghan evacuees that arrived in the United States that had derogatory information in their files. Critics are citing these reports as a basis for not supporting the Afghan Adjustment Act.

Supporters of the Afghan Adjustment Act argue that a security and vetting provision within the proposed legislation provides for a robust screening and vetting process prior to the 'adjustment of status' and the pursuit of lawful permanent resident status (Green Card). This is in addition to the numerous screening and vetting processes during the months-long road from Kabul airport to the resettlement in communities around the United States.

Arrival of Afghan Evacuees at Port of Entry
Army Specialist Grace Ryoo checks in Afghan guests as they arrive at the
Philadelphia International Airport (photo US Army, Nov 24, 2021)


Afghan Adjustment Act Provides
for a Thorough Vetting Process

The AAA provides for a thorough and robust vetting process for Afghans who are already resettled in the United States. As part of the process to 'adjust their status' outlined by the AAA the Afghans will undergo a very rigorous vetting process - equivalent to the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

When Afghans apply to 'adjust their status' either as an SIV, asylee, or under the Afghan Adjustment Act, the Department of Homeland Security runs additional security and medical checks, completes a comprehensive biometrics analysis (again), and conducts interviews before approving an applicant to make sure individuals are not national security or public safety threats to the United States. This additional layer of screenings is critical to ensure those who apply to adjust status remain in good standing in the United States.

Under the Afghan Adjustment Act additional screening and vetting is conducted before an individual receives permanent status to reside in the U.S. If an individual does not pass the screening process - would not be able to adjust thier immigration status. As a result, that individual may be deemed ineligible for legal permanent residency in the United States and they may be placed in removal proceedings.

The vetting process is the same as the screening and vetting process for refugees from outside the United States and who wish to come to the United States. This process is defined in Refugee Security Screening Fact Sheet, United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), June 3, PDF, 7 pages.
https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/fact-sheets/Refugee_Screening_and_Vetting_Fact_Sheet.pdf

The refugee vetting process is fully explained in this report by the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). Read Debunking "Extreme Vetting": Recommendations to Build Back the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, IRAP, June 2021, PDF, 49 pages.
https://refugeerights.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Vetting-Report-2020-v6-REVISED-JUNE-2021-1.pdf

How Afghan Evacuees Were Vetted
Before Release to U.S. Communities

From August 2021 to mid-summer 2022, intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals were conducting a robust, multi-layered screening and security vetting process for all Afghans before they arrived in the United States and again once they arrived in America on one of the eight military installations or at the National Conference Center in Virginia.

This comprehensive investigation includes reviews of both biographic and biometric data checked against U.S. and international intelligence databases. The U.S. analyzes names, dates of birth, fingerprints, and other comprehensive biographic identifiers against multiple domestic and international agencies' holdings, including the terrorist watchlist. Afghans arriving with humanitarian parole also receive pre-and post-arrival medical screenings and vaccinations. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and additional Intelligence Community (IC) partners conduct multiple security screenings and security vetting procedures.

The steps of the screening and vetting process during the Kabul NEO (August 2021) and after the NEO (September 2021 to present) are outlined below.



Screening Process During the Kabul NEO
August 15-31, 2021

Afghan evacuees who gained entry to the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) subsequently boarded U.S. military planes for secondary destinations throughout the region where they underwent screenings, interviews, and biometric checks before they journeyed to the United States. The screening at HKIA was rapid due to the huge number of evacuees and the chaotic situation. Screenings continued at secondary locations known as 'lily pads', U.S. military installations in the Middle East and Europe, and were much more thorough. In addition, Afghan evacuees went through 'port of entry' checks by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon arrival at a U.S. airport. After arrival in the United States the Afghan evacuees were transported to one of eight U.S. military installations located around the country and underwent additional screening. The evacuees were on these military installations for several weeks to several months before resettling in communities across the United States. Many of the Afghans evacuated during August 2021 were former interpreters or members of the Afghan military. Interpreters for the U.S. military went through a robust screening process before employment, with repeated counterintelligence interviews for the duration of their contracts. Members of the Afghan military, after 2011, also had a screening process as well before recruitment.

The graphic below describes the vetting process that went into effect after in the months after the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and the end of the non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) on August 31, 2021. The graphic can be found on the Infographics page of the Afghan Evac website.


Screening at the 'Lily Pads' and Ports of Entry
August 15, 2021 to Present

OAR OAW Vetting Process Afghan Evac Feb 2022

Afghan Evac, February 2022
(click here for larger image)



Screening at Kabul Airport during NEO - Aug 2021

During the chaotic Kabul non-combatant evacuation operation at Kabul airport in August 2021 the screening and vetting process was sometimes rushed and incomplete. More thorough follow-on processes would occur once the Kabul flight reached the Middle East transit locations or 'lily pads'. From there, many Afghans were flown to U.S. military installations in Europe to ease the crowded conditions on U.S. military bases in the Middle East.

Screening at Kabul Airport during NEO August 2021

(click here for a larger image)



Screening at 'Lily Pads' - Overseas Transit Locations

The U.S. government conducted health checks, administration processing, and security screening of Afghans while they were housed on a temporary basis on U.S. military installations (lily pads) in Europe and the Middle East. While at the lily pads Afghan evacuees had their information input into the DoD Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) as well as the DHS Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT). Multiple steps were taken to ensure that those seeking entry do not pose a national security or public safety risk. Read more here on the vetting and screening process conducted on the 'lily pads'. (click the + sign next to "Operational Phases"). Those Afghans found with derogatory information or whose situation required additional interviews and vetting were tranferred to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.

Screening of Afghans at Lily Pads

(click here for a larger image)



Screening at Port of Entry by Customs Border Protection (CBP)

Upon entry to the United States through the 'port of entries', the Afghan evacuees were processed by the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Questionable 'cases' were detained for further questioning. Those with a criminal past or judged to be a security threat were detained for further dispostion by the CBP.

Screening at Port of Entry - Kabul NEO

(click here for a larger image)



Screening at During Initial Months in the U.S.

Most of the Afghan evacuees (excepting AMCITS, LPRs, and SIVs with approved visas) were housed and processed on one of eight military installations across the country. Most spent from 3 to 6 months on these military bases prior to being resettled in a U.S. community. Administrative, medical, dental, and security screening was conducted during this time.

Screening at U.S. Miitary Installations - Kabul NEO

(click here for a larger image)





Vetting of Afghan Evacuees if the
Afghan Adjustment Act Passes Congress


Vetting Process with AAA

(click here for a larger image)

Refugee Security Screening Fact Sheet
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Department of Homeland Security
June 3, 2020, PDF, 7 pages


return to screening description


Vetting Of Former Members of Afghan Security Forces
Prior to August 2021 and Taliban Takeover

Afghans who joined the Afghan Security Forces were screened and vetted as part of the recruitment process. Almost all of them, at least after 2010, had their biometrics recorded in a database maintained by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) or Ministry of Defense (MoD). Some of the 80,000 plus Afghan evacuees now in the United States are former members of the Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan National Police (ANP), National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghan Air Force (AAF), Special Mission Wing (SMW), Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC), Female Tactical Platoon (SOF), and Combat interpreters. Each of these units had their own security process for their respective units. For instance, the Afghans who served in Afghan special operations units went through an intensive screening process - described in the graphic below.

Incountry Vetting of Afghan SOF - Pre-2021

(click here for a larger image)

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