The Biden administration is looking into exempting some Afghan civil servants who worked for the Taliban government in 1996-2001 from terrorism-related bans that would keep them from entering the United States, according to a new report.
A draft US Citizenship and Immigration Services planning document reviewed by Fox News revealed that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is set to allow Afghan civil servants who worked under the previous Taliban regime to enter the country by exempting them from terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds (TRIG) as long as they meet other background check and screening requirements.
The inadmissibility grounds targets members of terrorist organizations or individuals that have engaged in terrorism. Those subject to TRIG are ineligible for immigration benefits.
Since US Citizenship and Immigration Services defines terrorism-related actions as “relatively broad and may apply to individuals and activities not commonly thought to be associated with terrorism,” TRIG would likely be imposed on those who worked during the Taliban regime over 20 years ago.
According to the report, this TRIG exemption authority was originally finalized at the end of the Obama administration in January 2017, but was never published or implemented. The recent planning document comes as the US continues to allow thousands of Afghan migrants to enter the US in the aftermath of a chaotic troop withdrawal two months ago that led to another Taliban rule.
The administration has justified the exemptions by noting that many individuals who worked as civil servants during the regime had worked in their positions prior to the Taliban taking over.
“Some did so under duress or other situations of hardship,” the planning document said.
“Some used their positions in humanitarian capacities to mitigate the repressive actions of the Taliban regime, often at great personal risk. Some of these civil servants later worked for or helped the International Security Assistance Force, the U.S. government or the Afghan government that was established in Dec. 22, 2001.”
The guidance will reportedly be implemented as the administration expects increased filings for entry into the US.
“The effect [of the memo] is that people who worked as doctors, grade school teachers, civil servants or low-level government employees wouldn’t automatically be barred from ever entering the United States because they worked in those professions,” an administration official told Fox News, emphasizing that the exemption authority will not change the current screening and vetting process.
The official described the authority as “pre-decisional.”
The planning document reportedly notes that other TRIG exemptions have occurred in the past, and further emphasized that individuals will only be considered for the exemption if they pass “all background checks and pose no danger to the safety and security of the United States, and other threshold requirements.”
As Afghan migrants continue to enter the US after evacuating the war-torn country, some lawmakers have voiced concerns over the vetting process and whether those entering the US meet the requirements.
Last month, 26 GOP senators led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter to the White House asking President Biden for the exact number of US citizens, legal permanent residents and Special Immigrant Visa applicants left in Taliban-controlled territory.
The lawmakers also asked for the number of evacuees who had “no pending immigration application or status with the United States” prior to being evacuated from Afghanistan.
“Our immediate priority is the safety and well-being of American citizens, permanent residents, and allies who were left behind in Afghanistan,” the letter read. “We are also concerned by reports that ineligible individuals, including Afghans with ties to terrorist organizations or serious, violent criminals, were evacuated alongside innocent refugee families.”
The Biden administration has touted the current vetting process, calling it “rigorous,” but a majority of Americans are still not confident that the government is adequately screening these individuals.