The Department of Homeland Security failed to properly screen thousands of refugees who fled Afghanistan after last year’s botched US troop withdrawal — leading border security officials to admit “at least two” Afghans who were national security risks, according to a watchdog report released Wednesday.

The DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in its 34-page rundown that the information used by Customs and Border Protection to vet evacuees didn’t match up with data in other government databases.

“We found missing, incomplete, or inaccurate first and last names, [dates of birth], travel document numbers, travel document types, and visa data,” read the report, which said watchdog officials had scrutinized nearly 89,000 evacuee records in CBP’s system.

In all, OIG found that 36,400 refugees had “facilitation document” listed on their record, but no further explanation of what the document was. Another 7,800 records had missing or invalid document numbers, while hundreds of other records did not have a first or last name, or gave an incorrect birth date.

The DHS failed to properly screen thousands of refugees who fled Afghanistan, a watchdog report found.
Getty Images/Anna Moneymaker
According to the report, a large portion of refugees’ information was inaccurate.
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The report also revealed that a group of 35 Afghans were allowed to board a US-bound flight without first receiving clearance to travel, while nearly 1,300 other Afghans made it to America without having their fingerprints taken as required.

“CBP also allowed some evacuees to enter into the United States who may not have been fully vetted. According to internal DHS reports, CBP admitted or paroled dozens of evacuees with derogatory information into the country,” the report said, adding that the OIG had confirmed two such cases.

In one case, an Afghan who had been released from prison by the Taliban during their final offensive had managed to make it to the US, but was removed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement approximately three weeks after his arrival.

Nearly 7,800 records had missing or invalid document numbers.

The second Afghan whose case was confirmed by the OIG was placed in deportation proceedings three months after his arrival.

The report, based on interviews with more than 130 personnel involved in the evacuation efforts, noted that CBP officials had blamed the snafus on the language barrier, cultural differences like Afghans not knowing when they were born and a lack of automated systems that forced staffers to refer to photographs of handwritten flight manifests to enter information about evacuees.

The OIG report made two recommendations to DHS, both of which the agency rejected.

The report said the department should guarantee “recurrent vetting processes” are enacted for all evacuees, and immediately provide evidence that the screening and vetting information is accurate. It also said the DHS should “develop a comprehensive contingency plan to support similar emergency situations in the future.”

DHS responded by claiming that “all individuals were screened, vetted, and inspected” and it already has recurrent vetting in place. It also said it didn’t need the recommend contingency plan because the Afghan evacuation “was a rare and extraordinary” event. 

Sen. Rob Portman said he is not surprised by the lack of organization that let refugees slip their way in the country.
AP/Shekib Rahmani

More than a dozen GOP senators had called on the Biden administration this past fall to halt the Afghan refugee resettlement efforts, citing security concerns.

One of those senators, Rob Portman of Ohio, said Wednesday that he was “alarmed, but not surprised” by the report.

“I support the resettlement of Afghans who stood in battle with us and our allies over the last 20 years,” he said, “but as we approach the 21st anniversary of 9/11, the United States faces an increased threat due to the this administration’s catastrophic evacuation of Afghans without rigorous or thorough vetting.”

According to the OIG, the US admitted 79,000 Afghan refugees between July 2021 and January of this year.

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