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Ernst, Colleagues Press Biden on Americans, Allies Left in Afghanistan

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, the first female combat veteran elected to the U.S. Senate, today joined her colleagues in pressing the Biden Administration on details regarding the status and recovery methods of American citizens, green card holders, and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants in Afghanistan, including what measures the administration is taking to keep these people safe until they can get out of Afghanistan.

In a letter to President Biden, Ernst and her colleagues write, “We write regarding the humanitarian crisis created by your withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, and the safety and well-being of our fellow countrymen and allies that you left behind.”

They go on to say, “Our immediate priority is the safety and well-being of American citizens, permanent residents, and allies who were left behind in Afghanistan. We are also concerned by reports that ineligible individuals, including Afghans with ties to terrorist organizations or serious, violent criminals, were evacuated alongside innocent refugee families.”

The senators are requesting detailed answers to the following questions:

1.      How many American citizens does the administration believe to remain in Afghanistan?

2.      How many green-card holders does the administration believe to remain in Afghanistan?

3.      How many SIV applicants remain in Afghanistan?

4.      According to your administration, more than 50% of evacuated Afghans were not SIV applicants or their families. Of the more than 57,000 Afghans who are not American citizens, green-card holders, or SIV applicants or their families, how many had no pending immigration application or status with the United States prior to being airlifted?

 

To read the full letter, see below:

President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Biden:
We write regarding the humanitarian crisis created by your withdrawal of the United States from
Afghanistan, and the safety and well-being of our fellow countrymen and allies who you left
behind. The signatories of this letter may have differing opinions about whether the United
States should have maintained a military presence in Afghanistan, but we all agree that the
arbitrary and poorly-planned method by which you withdrew from Afghanistan caused this
crisis.
You say that more than 123,000 individuals have been evacuated from Afghanistan in recent
weeks (nearly half of whom were evacuated by groups or countries other than the United States),
but only an estimated 5,500 “self-identified” American citizens (4.5% of the total evacuees) were
evacuated or able to leave on their own. Further, while it does not appear that you have released
exact numbers of our Afghan partners who were evacuated, your administration has publicly
confirmed that fewer than 50% of evacuated Afghans were Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)
applicants or their families.
Our immediate priority is the safety and well-being of American citizens, permanent residents,
and allies who were left behind in Afghanistan. We are also concerned by reports that ineligible
individuals, including Afghans with ties to terrorist organizations or serious, violent criminals,
were evacuated alongside innocent refugee families. We request that you provide answers to the
following questions no later than 5:00PM on Tuesday, September 7:
1. How many American citizens does the administration believe to remain in Afghanistan?
a. Of the American citizens still in Afghanistan, how many are currently in contact
with the State Department?
b. Of the American citizens still in Afghanistan, how many have expressed a desire
to be repatriated to the United States?
c. How did the administration reach this estimate, and what steps is the
administration taking to find and connect with Americans who may still be in
Afghanistan but who are not in contact with the State Department?
2
2. How many green-card holders does the administration believe to remain in Afghanistan?
a. Of the green-card holders still in Afghanistan, how many are currently in contact
with the State Department?
b. Of the green card holders still in Afghanistan, how many have expressed a desire
to be repatriated to the United States?
c. How did the administration reach this estimate, and what efforts is the
administration taking to find and connect with green-card holders who may still
be in Afghanistan but who are not in contact with the State Department?
3. How many Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants remain in Afghanistan?
a. Of the SIVs remaining in Afghanistan, how many have already received final SIV
approval from the U.S. Center for Immigration Services?
b. Of the SIVs remaining in Afghanistan, how many are currently in contact with the
State Department?
c. Of the approved SIVs and the SIV applicants who were evacuated, how many
served for a year or more as interpreters or translators for American or allied
armed forces in Afghanistan?
d. Are the State Department and USCIS still processing pending SIV applications?
What steps are being taken to ensure that pending applicants are safe from
Taliban reprisals as their applications are adjudicated?
4. According to your administration, more than 50% of evacuated Afghans were not SIV
applicants or their families, including vulnerable Afghans such as women and girls at
high risk for Taliban reprisals. Of the more than 57,000 Afghans who are not American
citizens, green-card holders, or SIV applicants or their families, how many had no
pending immigration application or status with the United States prior to being airlifted?
a. By what criteria did your administration select these individuals for the airlift
while leaving American citizens, green-card holders, and SIV applicants and their
families behind?
b. How many evacuees, in total, are Afghans who are not American citizens, greencard holders, or SIV applicants or their families? Please also provide a breakdown
of how many of these individuals are adult men, adult women, girls, or boys.
c. What steps did your administration take to verify the identities of these
individuals before evacuation?
d. What steps are your administration taking to ensure that individuals are
thoroughly vetted and their identities verified before entering the United States?
e. Who is responsible for vetting these evacuated individuals before they reach the
United States?
3
f. Is the administration checking for potential criminal records and national-security
concerns before admitting individuals to the United States?
g. There are reports that a convicted rapist—who had previously served a prison
sentence in the United States before being deported—was flown to the national
capital region as part of this airlift operation.1
Was that individual vetted before
being flown to the United States? If so, was his criminal record found and
ignored, or was it not found in the first place?
h. How many other individuals have been allowed to enter the United States as part
of this evacuation before undergoing vetting and background checks?
We request thorough, unclassified answers to these questions that can be made available to the
general public. Americans need to see that the United States will not abandon them to terrorists
abroad forever. If your answers implicate classified material, you may also submit a classified
appendix to your answers and coordinate with us to provide a classified briefing.
We look forward to your prompt response.
Sincerely,
___________________
Tom Cotton
United States Senator
___________________
John Boozman
United States Senator
___________________
Susan M. Collins
United States Senator
___________________
Marsha Blackburn
United States Senator
___________________
Mike Braun
United States Senator
___________________
Kevin Cramer
United States Senator

___________________
Ted Cruz
United States Senator
___________________
Joni K. Ernst
United States Senator
___________________
Lindsey O. Graham
United States Senator
___________________
Bill Hagerty
United States Senator
___________________
Cindy Hyde-Smith
United States Senator
___________________
John Kennedy
United States Senator
___________________
Cynthia M. Lummis
United States Senator
___________________
Steve Daines
United States Senator
___________________
Deb Fischer
United States Senator
___________________
Chuck Grassley
United States Senator
___________________
Josh Hawley
United States Senator
___________________
Ron Johnson
United States Senator
___________________
Michael S. Lee
United States Senator
___________________
Roger Marshall, M.D.
United States Senator

___________________
Jerry Moran
United States Senator
___________________
John Thune
United States Senator
___________________
Tommy Tuberville
United States Senator
___________________
Ben Sasse
United States Senator
___________________
Pat Toomey
United States Senator
___________________
Roger F. Wicker
United States Senator

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