More than 100,000 cases involving Iraqis who applied for resettlement in the U.S. were under investigation for potential fraud at the beginning of 2021, including around 4,000 refugee applications, Reuters reported on June 18.
Over 500 Iraqis allowed to resettle in the U.S. face deportation and loss of U.S. citizenship after being implicated for suspected fraud, the State Department told Congress, according to Reuters. There was “no indication to date that any of these 500+ individuals have ties to terrorism,” State Department documents said.
The Biden administration considered a similar refugee program for Afghans fleeing retribution from Taliban insurgents, according to an anonymous State Department official, lawmaker and congressional aid, Reuters reported. Officials reportedly had “a lot of reservations” about resettling Afghan refugees in the U.S. since there were problems with the Iraqi program.
The Iraqi “Direct Access” refugee program was suspended temporarily in January and indefinitely in April after three foreign nationals were indicted on charges including fraud, money laundering and records theft, according to Reuters. The State Department would not comment on the specifics of the investigation, though a spokesperson said the criminal acts didn’t have any impact on security screening.
“The discovery, investigation, and prosecution of individuals involved in the scheme demonstrated the U.S. government’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of the program while upholding our humanitarian tradition,” a State Department spokesperson told Reuters. “Those who would seek to take advantage of America’s generosity in welcoming the most vulnerable people will be held accountable.”
Court documents suggest refugee applicants were paying for case files that helped them “potentially secure admission to the United States … when that would not otherwise have occurred,” according to Reuters. Suspects reportedly stole confidential information including consular interview questions, military service, work histories and personal accounts of persecution.
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FLASHBACK: Several Thousand Potential Fraudulent Iraqi Immigration Cases Give Biden Admin Pause About Afghan Refugee Program
Kaylee Greenlee on August 25, 2021