Lankford Demands Answers on Money Spent for Afghan Refugees As Democrats Want Billions More with No Oversight
Lankford: “There has not been a single public hearing in the Senate on Afghan refugees.”
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks on YouTube.
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK), who serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor in response to the Continuing Resolution (CR) being debated today, which includes $7 billion for Afghanistan refugee resettlement. Earlier this evening, Lankford called out the Democrats for demanding more money while providing no accountability for how it’s spent or who the refugees even are.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has already spent $6 billion on Afghanistan resettlement efforts in only three months, but DHS has yet to report how they have spent the money. DHS missed the mandatory reporting deadline, but Democrats are asking for Congress to add $7 billion more for Afghanistan resettlement efforts without any oversight of how the $6 billion is spent. Senate Democrats on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have also yet to hold a single oversight hearing on the Afghan refugee resettlement process.
It's my understanding that in a short period of time we'll be voting on the continuing resolution. The continuing resolution has been passed in the House, it's been delivered over in the Senate. This maintains our government operations for the next two months.
I've been a person that has expressed my frustration that we've not taken up the vast majority of the appropriation bills even in committee. It's my understanding that even as of today, nine of the 12 appropriation bills have not even been discussed in committee, and all 12 of those bills should have been done by September 30. We're now well past that now.
September 30 we passed a continuing resolution that went until tomorrow. Now we're passing another one that's going to go into February. As I read through it as it just came over from the House of Representatives and was scanning quickly through it when they actually released the language in it this morning, I was interested to be able to see a couple of things that popped out to me in particular serving on the Homeland Security Committee. Serving that position in Homeland Security and some of the issues that we deal with on a day-to-day basis and on oversight, I was fascinated to see two particular areas that popped out to me in this.
One was dealing with unaccompanied minors.
The Administration, earlier this year, took some of the COVID money that had been allocated in March and used that COVID money dealing with unaccompanied minors. We've yet to get a full accounting of how much that was, but then when the continuing resolution was passed just September 30, $2.5 billion, with a ‘B,’ $2.5 billion were allocated just to deal with the surge of unaccompanied minors for this year. Well, that was a few months ago now.
This continuing resolution is allocating another $1.5 billion to unaccompanied minors. So, they took—we don't know how much money on the COVID money—for unaccompanied minors, and then if this bill passes tonight, which I assume it will at this point, it's another $4 billion just in the unaccompanied minors. May I remind you how large of a figure that is, an addition $4 billion.
Before we lose track of that, what jumped out at me first when I went through this was this surprising number. In the continuing resolution that just came over from the House just minutes ago, there is a request for an additional $ 7 billion for Afghan refugees. And when you say, ‘OK, I understand.’ In the September 30 continuing resolution, there was $6 billion for Afghan refugees that are there. That is $13 billion for Afghan refugees.
The best that we can tell, we have 69,000 afghan refugees that are in the process, and we're allocating $13 billion for it. Now, we all thought when we had the conversation here that $6 billion that was allocated was an enormous amount of money that was allocated. But now three months after the refugees started being able to move out of Afghanistan and that debacle of a withdraw that happened, now we're talking about not $6 billion, but $13 billion. That's around $200,000 per person so far.
If that was not bad enough, in the continuing resolution done September 30, because of the enormous size of this amount of money, and because of how little information has actually come to this body, there was a demand in it that by November 30, that was two days ago, the Department of Homeland Security would have to turn over a report of actually what's happening with the Afghan refugees.
Has anyone in this body read that report from DHS now on how they're handling the Afghan refugees? I would go ahead and preemptively answer no, because none of us have seen the report yet.
Here's what we don't know, but yet this body demanded in the last CR to be able to get from DHS. We demanded to know crazy things like this: the number of lawful US permanent residents that were evacuated out of Afghanistan. We don't have that number yet. We don't know how many were special immigrant visa holders. We don't know how many were actually applicants for special immigrant visas. We don't know the number that had any other immigrant status. We don't know the number who actually worked for our government that was actually evacuated. We've not been told, though we demanded to have it by November 30.
We don't know the number of people that work for a partner government or any other entity that we were affiliated with, though we asked for that. We don't know the number of people that actually came through the process, then were later determined to be security threats to the United States and slipped through the process. We asked for that. We asked for that to come in by November 30. That's not been turned over.
We asked for the number of people that were getting parole, that their parole was terminated because of some other criminal activity or something else. We asked for that. That's a number they have. They've not turned that number over. We asked for even the number of interviews that had been conducted. We've yet to receive that.
In fact, there has not been a single public hearing in the Senate on Afghan refugees. Not one. So not only have we not received anything in writing, we've not even received any testimony from anyone from DHS on this.
Listen, we gave DHS $6 billion and said, ‘We're going to allocate this money to you. We just want to know who we're allocating it to and what it's going to be used for.’ That doesn't seem unreasonable. But not only is this body not holding DHS Accountable for not answering our questions, we're handing them $7 billion more tonight. Does anyone else see this as an issue? I'm all for keeping the government open, but this body has a responsibility of oversight. We've pretended we're doing oversight, but we're actually not doing oversight. Not a hearing, not a report, nothing.
So, yes, I’m going to oppose the CR tonight. I'm not holding up the vote. I understand full well the responsibility of all 100 of us to put ourselves on the record. But if we're going to actually say we're going to do oversight, let's actually do oversight. And it is not unreasonable when we all agree these are the facts and figures that should come from DHS to just tell us what's going on with the Afghan refugees, that we actually expect they're going to turn those things over.
So, in the days ahead, I hope we'll actually hold a hearing and actually get the facts. I hope we'll actually demand that they turn over to us what we've required to turn over to them, and I hope we get full accounting of how they're spending $13 billion on what we understand was 69,000 people. Most of which have not even been moved in and across the United States yet. $13 billion.
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