Mar 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: U.S. deports first Afghan back to Afghanistan

Three women watch as a lesson is taught in the education center of an Afghan refugee camp in New Mexico

A lesson plays on a TV in the education center of an Afghan refugee camp in New Mexico. Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

The U.S. deported its first Afghan evacuee back to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan earlier this month due to a criminal record discovered after their arrival, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Out of the tens of thousands of evacuated Afghans brought to the United States, only a small handful remain in government custody because of criminal records or other concerns. Now, a process has been established for returning Afghans to their home country, if necessary.

The details: The Afghan in question was returned on Feb. 13 in coordination with officials in Doha, Qatar, according to an internal government document obtained by Axios.

  • The details of the crime are unclear, although Axios was told by an administration official there was no connection to terrorist networks or national security concerns.
  • The official said that this was an example of the vetting system working.
  • All Afghans are screened and vetted through multiple U.S. agencies before their arrival.
  • As of September, just 44 out of tens of thousands of evacuees were flagged through those processes as potential national security risks, the Washington Post reported at the time.

What they're saying: The vetting process is ongoing. "If individuals engage in criminal activity or additional information becomes available that raises a concern, the U.S. government takes action, which can include prosecution, revocation of parole and placement into removal proceedings,” a DHS spokesperson told Axios in a statement.

The big picture: Roughly 76,000 Afghans have been brought to the U.S. through Operation Allies Welcome since the Taliban took Kabul in mid-August.

  • As of earlier this month, all had been moved off military bases, to be resettled in communities across the U.S.
  • More than 1 in 3 has been resettled in Texas, California and Virginia, CBS News reported.
  • "We are prepared to welcome additional qualifying Afghans over the coming weeks and months as capacity allows," a DHS official told Axios in a statement.
  • That includes "thousands of Afghans who are at overseas transit locations for processing to come to the United States."

What to watch: As of Sunday, the Taliban will no longer allow Afghans to leave the country without a good reason, the Wall Street Journal reported.

  • Women also will be required to have chaperones.
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