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Herrell: Woman service member assaulted by Afghan refugees back at work

Rep. Yvette Herrell tours Fort Bliss (credit: KFOX14/CBS4)
Rep. Yvette Herrell tours Fort Bliss (credit: KFOX14/CBS4)
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U.S Representative for New Mexico, Yvette Herrell toured the Fort Bliss facility where Afghan refugees are held on Wednesday in a search for answers on two topics.

Rep. Herrell asked for answers regarding the vetting process of Afghan refugees along with answers to a recent assault on a Fort Bliss soldier by a group of Afghan refugees.

Herrell said the female service member who was assaulted by Afghan refugees is back at work but not at the Doña Ana camp where the refugees are being housed.

Herrell said her biggest concern is that the refugees who assaulted the service member have left the base. She said she couldn't get answers on whether the refugees who assaulted the soldier remain at the base or if they have left.

She said there haven't been arrests or charges regarding the assault and said none of the refugees have had their parole revoked by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“There are flaws in the vetting process. That is not acceptable. You don’t have to go further than on the service member who was attacked in Fort Bliss to know that there are flaws," said Herrell.

She said Fort Bliss has implemented more security cameras, additional lighting following the incident but the case remains under investigation.

Herrell said there are currently about 9,000 to 10,000 Afghan refugees at the base. She said the military base is expecting more refugees this week, some arriving as soon as Thursday.

Herrell said she was told about 500 to 600 refugees have left the base. She said the refugees are not forced to stay at the base and have the freedom to leave whenever they wish.

She said if a refugee decides to leave the base there is a checkout process. She said they are given paperwork to continue their visa process or work permits in order and on their own.

"It would slow down the process as far as work permits and things of that nature. They are getting help at the base with the paperwork, chasing the documentation, ensuring the paperwork gets through the right channels, they would be responsible for that on their own if they choose to leave the base," Herrell said.

She said if the refugees decide to stay at the base they can get help on their visa process. She said if the refugees leave the base they are not able to go back to the base.

"We were told many of the Afghan refugees have family or friends throughout the United States, so they've been able to make contact with those people. They are in the process of building a visiting center, so other people could come and visit them at the facility," Herrell said.

“The American people have the right to know that these refugees that are being brought to our nation are being vetted properly. We’ve asked questions what is their process what databases they are comparing criminal background checks as well as security checks,” said Herrell.

The congresswoman said investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigations have a presence every day at the facility.

The congresswoman said the staff at the military base are trying to infuse western culture on the refugees from the food to clothing behavior to the English language.

On Sept. 6, Herrell toured the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, a second location in the Borderland housing Afghan refugees.

During Herrell’s visit to Holloman AFB, the representative said the facility itself was great and was honored with the work the military was doing but not without adding she still had unanswered questions.

Herrell added she understands Afghan refugees go through three different vetting processes before arriving at sites such as Holloman AFB; however Herrell believes it is important to know what occupation or roles Afghans' had back in Afghanistan.

Herrell said another question she wants to be answered is how much is it costing taxpayers to hold and keep Afghan refugees at the bases.

Congresswoman Yvette Herrell and House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari requesting an immediate investigation by the Office of Inspector General into the Department of Homeland Security’s actions and decisions related to Operation Allies Welcome and the tens of thousands of Afghans being resettled in the United States.

RELATED: No arrests made after female service member assaulted by Afghan refugees at Fort Bliss

RECOMMENDED: Rep. Herrell and Rep. Stansbury recount tour of Holloman Air Force Base

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