Afghan Refugees Not Tested for COVID Before Landing in US

Afghans are tested after arrival in the United States

People line up for evacuation from Afghanistan before Aug. 31 / Reuters
September 3, 2021

Afghan refugees coming to the United States did not receive COVID-19 tests before departing Kabul, the State Department told the Washington Free Beacon.

The State Department’s disclosure comes amid increased scrutiny of the Biden administration’s handling of more than 100,000 Afghans, who fled the country following the Taliban’s takeover. The agency requires COVID tests before it allows foreign travelers to arrive in the United States, but it waived the requirement for those who evacuated from Afghanistan.

"Given the extraordinary circumstances, a blanket humanitarian exemption was issued for the requirement of pre-departure COVID testing for all individuals the U.S. government transported by aircraft from Afghanistan," an agency spokeswoman told the Free Beacon on Friday. 

Reports indicate other significant lapses in the State Department’s handling of the Afghan evacuation efforts. The Associated Press reported Friday that officials are investigating cases of Afghan men bringing their child brides into the United States. "Intake staff at Fort McCoy reported multiple cases of minor females who presented as ‘married’ to adult Afghan men, as well as polygamous families," a document obtained by the AP says. "Department of State has requested urgent guidance."

Both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have defended the refugee-vetting process that has been criticized for leaving behind hundreds of Americans and thousands of Afghan translators and allies. Special Immigrant Visa applicants, who spent years waiting on agency background checks and other bureaucratic hurdles, were stranded as others boarded flights at the Kabul airport on a seemingly first-come, first-serve basis under the supervision of the Taliban. Republicans, as well as DHS officials, say the sheer number of refugees coming into the country makes it impossible for comprehensive background checks to take place.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and 26 other GOP senators sent a letter to the White House on Thursday demanding specifics on the refugees who are arriving in the United States, citing the high number of SIV applicants left behind in Afghanistan. Cotton estimated more than 57,000 of the Afghans evacuated were not green card holders, visa applicants, or U.S. citizens.

"Joe Biden cynically used the plight of those loyal Afghans who served alongside American troops to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghans who had no right to be in the country and is now bringing them into the country to the tune of thousands every day, with no ability to vet whether or not they’re a security threat at all," Cotton said.

Afghans received COVID tests after their arrival at Dulles International Airport in Virginia and Philadelphia International Airport. The State Department official declined to elaborate on the quarantine procedures for those who test positive.