EXCLUSIVE: Convicted rapist reached the U.S. on Afghan evacuation flight - The Washington Times
A man who’d been convicted of rape and had previously been deported from the U.S. was allowed to board an Afghan evacuation flight and reach America, according to law enforcement sources.
He is being held at the Caroline Detention Facility in Bowling Green, Virginia, The Washington Times has learned. “They are bringing far too many people in far too quickly to be able to effectively vet them,” said Ken Cuccinelli, former deputy secretary at Homeland Security in the Trump administration.
It’s not clear what Heydari’s exact path to entry was, though it’s unlikely he was a Special Immigrant Visa holder. That’s reserved for Afghans who provided significant support for the U.S. in the war effort. And it’s not likely he was a refugee, given his immigration history.
That leaves parole, a power the Homeland Security secretary has to grant admission to the U.S. in exceptional humanitarian cases. It appears most Afghans being evacuated to the U.S. are in fact here as parolees, rather than on an official immigration status such as a visa.
The Times has reached out for comment from Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection, the department’s agency that mans the ports of entry, including Dulles International Airport, where the Ethiopian Airlines flight landed.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters in the middle of last week, said security checks are supposed to happen outside the U.S. “That happens at the transit hubs and it happens before individuals are allowed into the United States,” the official said. “That’s, in particular, with the biometric and biographic security screenings that our colleagues in the intelligence community and law enforcement and other counterterrorism components of our government are doing.
“So that is where we are doing that work to ensure that however it is — whatever is happening on the ground at HKIA, before individuals are allowed into the United States, they receive that security vetting,” the official said, using the acronym for Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Heydari came to the U.S. as a refugee some time in the previous century and was granted a green card in 2000.
A man whose name and age match Heydari pleaded guilty to rape in Ada County, Idaho, in 2010. He served more than five years in a state prison and was released on supervision in December 2015, according to state records.
n 2016 he was ordered deported by an immigration judge and was actually removed in 2017. When he arrived in the U.S. on the evacuation flight, officials tried to get him to cancel his request to enter, formally known as withdrawal of application for admission, but Heydari appears to have refused. Security analysts have warned of the danger involved in the massive number of people the U.S. is airlifting from Afghanistan to the U.S., and holes in vetting.
The airlift was billed as a chance to get Afghans who assisted the U.S. war effort out of the country, as part of a promise made to them for their help. Those Afghans are supposed to be eligible for what’s known as the Special Immigrant Visa. But the airlift has turned into a bit of a free-for-all, with relatively few of those brought here actually approved for SIVs or cleared as refugees. Most appear to have been brought under Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ power of parole, which is a special permission to enter, supposed to be reserved for exceptional humanitarian cases.
As of Monday morning, the administration said it had evacuated about 116,700 people since Aug. 14, though not all of them have been brought to the U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, who toured Fort McCoy in Wisconsin on Friday, where 2,000 Afghans were being held, and said not a single one was an SIV holder. “I still do not have a clear idea of the vetting process. They say that people are fully vetted, but we ask what does that mean? We take biometric data, those type of things, but I said what do you tie it back to?” the Republican congressman told The Washington Times.
Given the Afghan government has fallen and the Taliban is now running things, it’s not clear what sort of access the U.S. has to check records in that country to verify stories.
“We want to know what people’s history is, and I get the sense they’re just pushing these people through,” the congressman said.
Lack of information is the same issue the U.S. faced during the Obama years, when the administration vowed to welcome tens of thousands of Syrians amid that country’s civil war, but struggled to vet them with a government the U.S. was trying to topple.
Some potential security risks among the Afghan evacuees have been spotted by authorities.
More than 100 prospective SIV recipients were flagged as potential matches to names on U.S. intelligence watch lists, Defense One reported.
And one man evacuated from Kabul has potential ties to the Islamic State terrorist organization. That person was evacuated from Afghanistan to another country to undergo vetting, and unlike Heydari was not on U.S. soil.