Five US Congressmen from Wisconsin visit Fort McCoy
FORT MCCOY, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Thinking of the Afghan refugee screening process, Republican officials traveled to Fort McCoy to fully understand what the military is doing for these people fleeing Afghanistan.
Congressmen Mike Gallagher (WI-08), Glenn Grothman (WI-06), Bryan Steil (WI-01), Tom Tiffany (WI-07), and Scott Fitzgerald (WI-05) received a tour of the post and then a briefing led by the 88th Reserve Readiness Division Commander, Major General Darrell Guthrie.
During this briefing, they learned what the fort has done for the refugees so far.
“During our briefing, we were informed that approximately 2,000 people are currently here,” said Rep. Bryan Steil. “Could reach 3,000 by the end of today, with a capacity of 10,000 here.”
A situation continues, Fort McCoy is doing what it can as it receives buses from Afghan people and families without warning.
The process these people went through to get to Fort McCoy is a long road in itself. Once they have passed through the gates of Kabul airport, the verification process begins. A quick flight to a place of “water lilies” in a neighboring country like Qatar, the first step in verification is an interagency process checking everyone against terrorist watch lists.
From there, the refugees are flown to the United States and pass through the port of entry at Dulles Airport in Washington DC. This is where the second step of the verification process is accomplished. Some, who have special immigration visas, can enter the country from there.
The rest is flown to what the five members of Congress call “reception centers” across the country. Fort Bliss and Fort McCoy and three others have been identified as locations to continue processing the remaining refugees.
“By the time they get here, they’ve already been granted parole,” said Representative Mike Gallagher. “So they do a little bit of checking here. Biometrics, tracking, trying to piece together all the IDs of these people, see if they’re eligible for work permits, things like that. But most of the National security checks take place before people arrive at Fort McCoy. “
This parole status means that people sent to facilities like Fort McCoy do not have special immigration visas (SIVs). They can stay in the country for up to two years legally as parolees while their applications are processed.
“Outside of our meeting, there were no SIV holders. There are people inside the pipeline to access the SIV,” Rep. Steil said. “There are obviously a large number of families that are in this unit where someone from that family unit may be in the process of applying but does not hold a special immigration visa at this time.
Rep. Glenn Grothman added that it is a two to four week process for these parolees to surpass Fort McCoy. We still don’t know where they go from there. Some have suggested they be sent to another location, but according to Rep. Bryan Steil, they can leave Fort McCoy at any time as they are not being detained.
However, only two people have left so far. One is a US citizen, the other is the spouse of a US citizen. Part of the reason no one left the job is because they are taught what to expect outside of the fence.
Additionally, in addition to the very accommodating accommodation and dining facilities, Army personnel went out of their way to make their stay as comfortable as possible. Even ensuring that the cuisine is culturally appropriate.
The message from the representatives is that Fort McCoy is handling their part of the verification process very well and any verification concerns they still have will be directed to the Biden administration.