Frenzied omnibus negotiations fail to yield deal on FAIR-opposed Afghan Adjustment Act
FAIR Take | December 2022
While the $1.7 trillion omnibus contained terrible policy and wasteful spending, one Democrat wish-list item it thankfully did not contain was a proposal to give green cards to evacuees from Afghanistan, many of whom have proven to be criminals or national security risks. The proposal was led by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who filed a last-minute omnibus amendment based on the Afghan Adjustment Act she introduced in August with support from several Republicans. The amendment ultimately was not included, a victory in an otherwise wretched bill that weakens leverage over the purse strings for the new Republican-controlled House.
The Afghan Adjustment Act expands special immigrant visas (SIVs) and implements a green card application process for Afghans brought to the US during “Operation Allies Welcome” (OAW), Biden’s name for the rushed Afghanistan evacuation last year. OAW paroled over 70,000 Afghans into the US in just a few months. Parole is supposed to be granted only “on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit” and shouldn’t be granted to refugees, who have a separate legal pathway, but such abuse of power is typical for this administration.
A September inspector general report revealed that early OAW “screening and vetting requirements were decided on an ad hoc basis,” and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “admitted or paroled evacuees who were not fully vetted into the United States.” Military bases processing evacuees were given an average of just 6 days’ notice to support about 11,000 evacuees each. Some bases didn’t yet have State Department tracking software, called Hummingbird, when evacuees arrived, and instead used Excel spreadsheets. When base personnel retroactively logged Afghans into Hummingbird, some gave different information than when they arrived. About half the evacuees entered with a vague “facilitation document” which CBP can’t define. Many were allowed to enter without any ID whatsoever, and CBP didn’t keep a list of such individuals.
By November 2021, 50 evacuees in the US had “significant security concerns” in Pentagon databases. Crime has become a problem among evacuees, including an assault on a soldier in New Mexico, a man’s sexual assault of his 12-year-old son and 14-year-old nephew in Wisconsin, a rape in Montana, a man’s domestic abuse of his wife and kids in Wisconsin, vehicle theft and physical assault in Virginia, and sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy in New Mexico, among other cases. In short, OAW was a boondoggle, yet open-borders Democrats want to give Afghan evacuees a pathway to citizenship. With the clock ticking before Republicans take control of the House in January, Democrats saw attaching the Afghan Adjustment Act to the omnibus as a sure means of passage.
In drafting the amendment, negotiators made minor changes to the original bill in an attempt to address Republican concerns while preserving its purpose and intent. The original version granted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), led by border crisis architect Alejandro Mayorkas, too much discretion to determine whether evacuees had been properly vetted. Negotiators updated the text to prescribe specific vetting measures, including an in-person interview, and require DHS consultation with the Defense Department, Attorney General, and Congress. Republicans were concerned that the original version endorsed the abuse of parole authority described above, so negotiators changed it to develop a “contingency plan” for future evacuations using refugee and/or consular processing instead of parole. Republicans were also concerned the original version included too large a priority group – evacuees whose green card applications when approved, would grant lawful permanent residence retroactively to their arrival and thus shorten their wait for citizenship. So negotiators narrowed the priority group. They also made token concessions to respond to damning Inspectors General reports.
These changes do not improve the flawed central premise. Klobuchar’s amendment would have required a supermajority of 60 votes in the 50-50 Senate. Even if all Democrats had been in favor, it would have still needed 10 Republican votes. Fortunately, enough Republicans saw through the changes and no floor vote was even held on the amendment. FAIR will be watching to see if a renewed effort on this front emerges next Congress, and will continue to urge sensible lawmakers of both parties to vote against this misguided policy.