There are 2,000 Afghans at Ft. McCoy in Wisconsin, and not a single one of them is a Special Immigrant Visa holder, according to a congressman who toured the base Friday and said he was dismayed by what he heard.
Rep. Tom Tiffany also said the Afghans are free to walk away from the base at any time — and some already have done so, embedding in American communities. The personnel at the base can try to “discourage” them, but if they want to leave, they have already been paroled into the county and there is no way to block them, the Republican congressman told The Washington Times.
“Those people, all 2,000 of them that are at Ft. McCoy, they can leave any time,” Mr. Tiffany said. So far, “only a couple” have done so, personnel at the base told him.
American officials have sold the airlift to the public as a chance to rescue people who helped the U.S. in the 20-year war effort in Afghanistan.
The government has even created a program, the Special Immigrant Visa or SIV, specifically for them, asking that they submit to close vetting of their backgrounds and checks to make sure they really did provide significant assistance to Americans.
But none of those at Ft. McCoy were admitted on SIVs, Mr. Tiffany said.
“It’s a bait-and-switch,” he said.
Instead, the Afghans are being admitted under what’s known as parole, a power the Homeland Security secretary has to grant admission to the U.S. in exceptional humanitarian cases. Parole is supposed to be used on a case-by-case basis, and usually lasts one year, but Mr. Tiffany said those at Ft. McCoy have been granted two-year passes.
Parole isn’t supposed to earn access to welfare and other benefits, but it can bring a work permit, which carries some taxpayer benefits.
The Times has reached out to Homeland Security for comment on Mr. Tiffany’s revelations.
It’s not clear what sort of monitoring the government plans for the Afghans once they do leave base. Mr. Tiffany said State Department and Homeland Security employees were at the base, but gave no assurances about the government’s ability to keep tabs on people.
The Times had previously asked Homeland Security and the State Department about whether they had plans, or even the ability, to deport Afghans who end up here but don’t eventually qualify for an SIV or other immigrant status. Neither department has provided those answers.
Mr. Tiffany toured the base along with other Republicans in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. He said they were told the base is about to get another 1,000 Afghans, and believes it has capacity for 10,000.
“They did not say this, the leadership at the fort, but I would expect they’re probably going to end up with 10,000 here very soon. I wouldn’t be surprised, if we continue to see a lot of Afghans come into the country, they’ll exceed the 10,000,” he said.
Officials at the base assured the lawmakers that the Afghans had been vetted, but the congressman said it wasn’t clear what that meant.
“We want to know what people’s history is, and I get the sense they’re just pushing these people through,” he said. “I think this is very similar to what is happening on the southern border, where they’re just saying ‘Come on in,’ and we’ll deal with the details later.”
The Biden administration had been counting on having months after the departure of U.S. troops to continue processing SIV applicants. But the speedy collapse of the Afghan government has forced the administration to improvise an evacuation strategy.
Plans to send Afghans to Guam, a U.S. territory, where they could be held until their cases were decided, never came to realization. Instead the government is bringing thousands to the continental U.S., and asking some third countries to take people as well.
There’s a real danger of admitting people who didn’t deserve it.
During the first three months of this year the government granted 137 SIVs to principal applicants, but denied 728 applications, marking an 84% rejection rate, most likely because applicants were overselling, or unable to prove, their assistance to the U.S. war effort.
Mr. Tiffany said there’s an even bigger danger lurking in the flood of people.
“I think it is incredibly naive to think ISIS, the Taliban or al Qaeda aren’t trying to embed people in the United States here who will be the next sleeper cell,” he said. “The worst thing that can happen is to have improperly vetted terrorists coming into our country and wreaking havoc here, after Americans gave so much over the last 20 years. There was enough damage done in Afghanistan, we don’t need to be importing terror into this country.”