- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The Biden administration allowed hundreds of Afghans from last year’s airlift to disappear into American communities without getting COVID-19 or other vaccinations, an inspector general has revealed.

The information was released as the Biden administration was starting the process to fire government workers who didn’t get the coronavirus shots — including some employees at Homeland Security, the department that allowed the Afghans to go free.

Investigators couldn’t say exactly how many Afghans avoided vaccination. They said the Homeland Security Department reported that fewer than 600 walked away without the shots in the early weeks of the evacuation, but dodgy records made it impossible for the inspector general to evaluate that claim.

Others walked out of military base camps before final clearance — a process that was supposed to ensure they were vaccinated, as well as acclimated to their new homes.

“Some Afghan evacuees independently departed safe havens without completing medical requirements,” the inspector general concluded — though again, because of poor records, it was impossible to say how many evaded the vaccines.

The disparity in treatment doesn’t sit well with Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

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“Another example of this administration caring more about noncitizens than the actual citizens of this nation,” he told The Washington Times. “The White House claims to have put the vaccine mandate in place to protect life, but in the same breath, it turned around and let persons from countries with much higher rates of [illness] into the U.S. to potentially affect all those whom the mandate was supposed to protect.

“When it comes to pandering to activists, nothing that this administration does should surprise anyone,” Mr. Judd said.

Homeland Security didn’t respond to an inquiry on the different approaches, but it defended its handling of the Afghans by saying they were informed about the medical standards they were expected to meet.

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has already provided and will continue to provide counseling for Afghan nationals regarding the conditions of their parole,” the department said in a statement.

In its official response to the inspector general’s report, the department acknowledged it was taking a lenient approach with the Afghans, including withholding penalties for refusing vaccination.

“To date … DHS has not revoked parole, nor precluded access to an immigration benefit due solely to noncompliance with medical parole conditions,” wrote Jim Crumpacker, the department’s liaison to the inspector general.

He said the department should be praised for its speed in trying to get the Afghan arrivals vaccinated.

The airlift kicked into high gear on Aug. 15, when Kabul fell to the Taliban. Ten days later, the government created a vaccine requirement for Afghans brought to the U.S. and began enforcing those conditions on Sept. 7 by requiring new arrivals to go to military bases, where they would be pressured to get the vaccines.

Even at those camps, the evacuees were treated as “guests” and could walk away at any time, the inspector general said.

That made it impossible to calculate exactly how many disappeared into communities without getting the required vaccines.

Indeed, investigators said Homeland Security couldn’t even say when some of them walked away.

An official who looked for three evacuees at the camp in New Jersey in January determined that they had disappeared from the base in September without anyone recording their departures. Later, when the official went looking for another person, he couldn’t figure out what happened but ended up marking the evacuee as having “departed” the base at some point.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas used his parole powers to clear 77,000 Afghans into the U.S. during the airlift.

The inspector general said 8,600 evacuees never made it to the camps set up to process them at eight military bases in the U.S. Another 11,700 went to the camps but walked off without full processing.

Homeland Security created a task force to try to track down the evacuees who never made it through processing, but even there, the government bungled, the inspector general said. The task force tracked down only Afghans who walked away from Washington Dulles International Airport. It didn’t track down the thousands who went to the military base camps but departed without completing their processing.

Homeland Security insisted the task force was fulfilling the exact mission it was given, but the inspector general said the administration’s documents showed that the task force was supposed to be tracking down everyone.

At the time of the evacuees’ arrival, the U.S. had a near-blanket policy at international airports requiring visitors — those arriving without immigrant visas in hand — to prove they had been vaccinated.

Those who came in on parole, as well as asylum-seekers and refugees, were exempted.

President Biden took office last year vowing a renewed get-tough approach toward the pandemic.

He cajoled Congress into a massive COVID-19 spending bill and rolled out a series of executive policies designed to force masking and social distancing on federal property, as well as vaccine use among personnel with connections to the federal government.

That included a broad mandate on members of the military, one on the broader universe of federal employees, one on medical workers and one on government contractors.

Courts have blocked enforcement of some of those mandates, including the one for the federal workforce that applied to Border Patrol and other Homeland Security employees.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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