Republican Representative Yvette Herrell says she has been blocked from visiting Fort Bliss to see the situation with Afghan refugees as more questions are raised about the vetting process and what the next steps are after they arrive in the United States.
Herrell, whose New Mexico district is home to Holloman Air Force Base and parts of Fort Bliss — two of the bases that receive refugees, told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview she couldn’t make it to Fort Bliss this week.
“I’ve asked the base to allow me to come out and give a taste of what’s happening out there, what this facility is going to look like, where it’s going to be. At the moment we are being told that all bases are on hiatus to allow elected officials, members of Congress etc and other officials to come out and see for ourselves what this is going to look like,” she said.
She said her district is expected to host at least 19,000 Afghan refugees, but she expects more to arrive.
Republican Representative Yvette Herrell Says She’s Been Blocked From Visiting Fort Bliss To See Situation With Afghan Refugees
People evacuated from Afghanistan get off a bus as they arrive at a temporary housing center in Chantilly, Virginia, and more refugees are expected to enter the US in the coming days
Other refugee bases have allowed members of Congress to tour, including Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, which has hosted Republican Senator Ron Johnson and Republican Representative Tom Tiffany. Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar toured Fort Bliss earlier this month to investigate the refugee situation.
Herrell said she was invited to a Fort Bliss tour last week but was unable to — with just 24 hours’ notice — because she was in Washington DC, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi had recalled the House.
When she tried to schedule a tour for this week, she would say there was a hold on them now.
A White House official told DailyMail.com that the refugee bases have housed a number of lawmakers and government officials, including as recently as Monday. “There is no change in policy,” the official said.
Herrell’s office said they had been told the tours were to last two weeks.
The Biden administration continues to add bases to the refugee population. Originally, three bases were assigned and then four more were added. Now that number has increased to eight. In addition, Philadelphia International Airport will join Dulles International Airport in receiving and processing Afghan arrivals to handle the thousands of people entering the country.
“With all the chaos of the ongoing situation, our main conclusion is that visits and surveillance have been made (at least) very difficult by the administration, either intentionally or through confusion,” a Herrell employee told DailyMail.com.
Republicans have criticized the Biden administration over the vetting process that brings Afghan refugees into the country, questioning whether there is enough time or resources to do a thorough job.
“I can absolutely assure you that no one will enter the United States of America who has not gone through a thorough screening and background check,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during her briefing on Wednesday.
Pointing out that it can take years to get a green card, Herrell noted, “Yet the American people are supposed to believe that we get a good, solid vetting process in 36, 48, 60 hours.” It does not make any sense.’
Biden administration officials claim that most Afghan refugees worked for the US government while in Afghanistan, so they had already undergone some sort of vetting.
But the speed and chaos of the evacuation from Kabul — which President Joe Biden called an “extraordinary success” — raised questions about how people were checked before boarding the plane.
Some people got through without paperwork. The refugees are taken to other countries, such as Qatar and Germany, called “lily pad countries,” to be vetted before coming to the United States.
Psaki acknowledged that there were Afghans who were evacuated who did not go through the vetting process.
“They went to lilypad lands when that process is complete. It doesn’t mean it’s because there’s a flag, it means they didn’t fill out their paperwork and we were working to save tens of thousands of people, that’s why we evacuated them to these third countries,” she said.
Families evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, arrive at Dulles International Airport
Progression of temporary housing for evacuees from Afghanistan can be seen in the Dona Ana Housing Area near Fort Bliss
Questions also remain about what happens to the refugees when they enter the United States.
“That’s a $20,000 question,” Herrell said, saying she wants to know “exactly how many there will be, what the resettlement process looks like, how long they’ll be there, what are the security protocols, what does this look like?” forward?’
Other lawmakers have asked similar questions. After touring Fort McCoy in his district, which hosts Afghan refugees, Republican Tom Tiffany told Fox News he has questions about what happens to them after they leave the base, which they can do at any time.
“People can leave the base . . . without the authority of the general who oversees Fort McCoy,” he said.
After a sightseeing flight through Fort Bliss on Friday, Republican Senator Ted Cruz said an official there told him refugees can order an uber at any time to go to nearby El Paso.
On Wednesday morning, 20,000 Afghan refugees arrived at eight military bases in the United States, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Mark Milley said at a Pentagon briefing.
The bases are progressing to their capacity to hold people and more refugees are expected in the coming days.
“There is capacity and we are working towards capacity at our military base for up to 50,000, and again this is not a place where people would live, this is a place where people would go, they would get medical care and help and be connected.” with refugee resettlement organizations,” Psaki noted.
But on Wednesday, the US was reported to have left the majority of Afghan interpreters and others who had applied for special immigration visas (SIVs) to flee Afghanistan amid the US draw.
Including their relatives, as many as 100,000 Afghans could be eligible for relocation, meaning even more refugees could arrive in the United States in the coming days.
The US still has no reliable data on who has been evacuated, nor what type of visas they qualify for, a State Department official said. Wall Street Journal, but initial reviews suggested that most visa applicants didn’t make it through the airport crowds.
“I’d say it’s the majority,” the official said. “Just based on anecdotal information about the populations we’ve been able to support.”