National Politics

Senators demand answers on Afghan evacuee vetting, amnesty for illegal immigrants

(The Center Square) – Republican U.S. senators are keeping the pressure on the Biden administration over its immigration policies, demanding answers from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the number of Afghan evacuees in the U.S. and their vetting process, as well as information about foreign nationals in the country who have overstayed their visas.

They raise concerns about Mayorkas not providing information to Congress, suggesting his reason for not doing so is political and related to the Democrats’ plan to give amnesty to roughly 6.5 million illegal immigrants as the ongoing border crisis continues.

Republican Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Josh Hawley of Missouri are the latest to demand answers of the administration, after many others, including Hawley, called on Mayorkas to follow federal law in reporting back to Congress. Previous letters submitted to administration officials, including Mayorkas, demand answers related to the vetting process of Afghan evacuees in the U.S. and the number of immigrants crossing the U.S. border illegally.

One DHS report owed to Congress relates to the immigration status of Afghan evacuees, including the number of evacuees flagged as potential security risks or concerns. It was supposed to have been sent to Congress by Nov. 30. Congress didn’t receive it.

By Aug. 31 of this year, more than 120,000 individuals were airlifted out of Afghanistan. The U.S. government reportedly evacuated 80,000 people, of whom 5,500 were Americans and over 73,000 were Afghans or other foreign nationals. Roughly 44,000 of them are not housed at U.S. military bases but are living in the general population; fewer than 29,000 remain at military bases in the U.S., Politico reported.

Congress still has not received another DHS report, the Entry/Exit Overstay Report that was due Sept. 30, and which Lankford and Hawley are asking Mayorkas to provide. Among other things, it includes information about the number of foreign individuals living in the U.S. whose visas have lapsed.

Lankford and Hawley, who sit on the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, wrote in a letter to Mayorkas that “the FY 2021 funding package mandated that this report be sent to our Committee, which has oversight over DHS and over the Entry/Exit system.” They also point out that “DHS also failed to meet a November 30 deadline to submit a congressionally mandated report over its vetting of Afghan evacuees.”

The reports hold vital information for congressional oversight, they argue, and Mayorkas’ failure to provide them “violates the law and raises significant questions about your commitment to uphold the laws Congress enacts,” they told Mayorkas.

They also expressed concern about the DHS secretary potentially withholding the report for political reasons because it might include information that could end any chance that the Build Back Better Act is revived. The partisan budget reconciliation package didn’t receive the support it needed from all 50 Senate Democrats after Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he couldn’t support it. The bill passed the House on a party-line vote.

Among other things, the BBBA includes an amnesty provision for foreign nationals living illegally in the U.S., known as “Plan C.”

Plan C “would offer parole to illegal immigrants who have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2011,” the senators write. “This parole would put these illegal immigrants on the path to citizenship. The bill passed by the House and currently under consideration in the Senate would offer this parole benefit to illegal border crossers and to visa overstays – the same population included in the Department’s missing report.”

The senators also note that the Plan C parole provision of the bill “is at the center of controversy within the Senate as the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled it cannot be included in a version of BBB that may yet be considered by the Senate because it does not satisfy Senate rules for budget reconciliation legislation.”

A Congressional Budget Office report estimates that over 6.5 million people living in the U.S. illegally would receive amnesty under the BBBA, and amnesty would cost taxpayers $483 billion over 20 years.

“The DHS estimates in the FY 2020 Entry/Exit Overstay Report may complicate existing estimates about the number of illegal immigrants who would receive parole under the Build Back Better plan,” the senators argue, “and we are concerned that the department’s efforts to hide this number from the public are nothing more than a political cover for the Build Back Better plan’s radical, open border policies and provisions.”

The two senators asked Mayorkas to submit the report to Congress and to explain why DHS didn’t post the report online or provide the report according to statutory deadline.

DHS has not replied to the letter or responded to requests for comment about it.

The CBO estimates that the BBBA’s amnesty provisions after passage will cost $124 billion in the first decade and $359 billion in the second decade. The total net cost to taxpayers over 20 years would be $483 billion, it projects.

In addition to Plan C, the CBO estimates that enacting the BBBA would “result in a net increase in the unified deficit totaling $115.1 billion over the 2022-2031 period. That increase in the deficit would result from an increase in direct spending of $147.2 billion and an increase in revenues of $32.1 billion.

“The budgetary effects would be noticeably greater during the following decade, resulting in an increase in the unified deficit totaling $369 billion over the 2032-2041 period.”

Manchin said of the bill, “I have always said, ‘If I can’t go back home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.’ Despite my best efforts, I cannot explain the sweeping Build Back Better Act in West Virginia and I cannot vote to move forward on this mammoth piece of legislation.”

Despite the setbacks, the White House said it remains confident the BBBA will pass next year. In a statement issued earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Sen. Manchin had “promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground.”

If his statement indicated “an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate,” she added. “Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.”

Regardless if the BBBA is passed or not, the reports DHS owes Congress are still due, and Republican senators are still demanding that Mayorkas submit them.

By Bethany Blankley | The Center Square contributor

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