The Department of Homeland Security announced that it has deported an Afghan evacuee brought to the U.S. during last year’s chaotic airlift after he was convicted of molesting a 3-year-old girl at an evacuation camp.
His removal marks a milestone for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has struggled with how to handle criminals among the evacuee population at a time when the U.S. has a general bar on sending people back to Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country last year.
Tariq Mohammad Intezar was flown out of New York on Dec. 18, through the United Arab Emirates en route back to Afghanistan.
“We will continue to be vigilant in defending the American public from dangerous predators and protecting our most vulnerable population: our children,” said David O’Neill, deputy director of deportation operations in ICE’s Philadelphia area, which pursued the case against Intezar.
Intezar was among the tens of thousands of Afghans the U.S. airlifted out of Kabul amid that Taliban takeover.
He arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 8, clearing customs at Dulles International Airport before being sent to an evacuee camp at the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia.
That’s where he was caught fondling the girl, touching her buttocks and genitals over her clothing, according to investigators.
“The child tried to get away, but [Intezar] pulled the child back to him and continued touching her,” prosecutors told a judge in the case.
Intezar later told a translator that his behavior was “really normal” in his culture. “We pick up the kids and love them and just kiss them,” he said, according to court documents.
Former ICE officials had predicted that the agency would struggle to handle removals, given the administration’s reluctance to return people to a country controlled by the Taliban.
They had said that ICE would attempt to find third countries that might be willing to take deportees, but it would be difficult to find takers.
That makes the repatriation of Intezar to Afghanistan all the more striking.
ICE did not respond to an inquiry about other Afghans deported since the Taliban takeover, though Axios reported earlier this year that one had taken place.
Other deportation tests are looming behind Intezar.
Alif Jan Adil was convicted of abusive sexual contact and possession of child pornography over the summer. ICE has placed a detainer request to take custody of him when his sentence ends.