President BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE emphasized on Sunday that refugees who are being evacuated from Afghanistan will be thoroughly vetted before they are brought to the United States.
Biden’s comments, which he made during a Sunday afternoon speech from the White House on the evacuation effort, came as some conservative lawmakers and commentators have tried to stoke nativist concerns about welcoming Afghan refugees into the U.S.
“Planes taking off from Kabul are not flying directly to the United States. They’re landing at U.S. military bases and transit centers around the world,” Biden said. “At these sites where they are landing, we are conducting thorough … security screening for everyone who is not a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Anyone arriving in the United States will have undergone a background check.”
“Once screened and cleared, we will welcome these Afghans who helped us in the war effort over the last 20 years to their new home in the United States of America. Because that is who we are, that is what America is,” Biden continued.
Biden outlined how Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants who assisted the U.S. military are being transported from Kabul to transit centers in Qatar, Germany, Kuwait and Spain so they can complete their paperwork and undergo background checks.
The chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and ensuing evacuation effort has illuminated a debate within the Republican Party about accepting refugees. While some Republican figures have supported accepting Afghans into the U.S., others on the right have stoked fears about potential security threats from Afghan refugees without any particular evidence.
“The Biden regime owes us answers ASAP about how they will be vetting the refugee applicants from Afghanistan,” Rep. Lauren BoebertLauren BoebertJuan Williams: GOP's assault on voting rights is the real fraud Boebert used campaign funds for rent, utilities in violation of law Watchdog group seeks ethics probe over McCarthy's Jan. 6 comments MORE (R-Colo.) tweeted last week. “We are dealing with a part of the world that is a hotbed of terrorism and need to be incredibly vigilant.”
Biden’s mention of the vetting process appeared to be an effort to refute that rhetoric on the right.
Earlier Sunday, the Pentagon announced that it is activating the Civil Reserve Air Fleet and requesting assistance from commercial airlines to supplement the military’s evacuation effort.
“These civil reserve flights will be helping facilitate the safe movement of people from staging locations and transit centers like Qatar and Germany to the United States or to a third country,” Biden said. “None of them will be landing in Kabul.”
Biden said that the move would have minimal if any impact on commercial air travel.
As of Sunday, the U.S. has evacuated almost 28,000 people from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, Biden said, some of those being U.S. citizens and others Afghans who assisted U.S. troops in the 20-year war. The president described significant progress in the evacuation efforts but conceded, “we have a long way to go and a lot could still go wrong.”