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Afghan convicted of rape in U.S. was able to catch evacuation flight from Afghanistan

One of the tens of thousands of Afghan nationals who managed to make it out of Afghanistan in the airlift carried out by the U.S. and its allies was a 47-year-old man named Ghader Heydari, a convicted felon who had previously been deported from the U.S. 

Heydari was arrested on August 27 soon after he arrived, via Germany, at Washington's Dulles International Airport after catching an evacuation flight out of Kabul, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson. The Washington Times first reported his detention.

In 2010, Heydari was found guilty of felony rape in Idaho and sentenced to 18 years in prison. He was first deported from the U.S. to Afghanistan in 2017, where he remained until last month. 

After landing at Dulles Airport on August 26, 2021, Heydari was flagged during screening by immigration officials and placed into ICE custody. A day later, he was then transported to Caroline Detention Facility in Bowling Green, Virginia, about two hours south of Dulles Airport. 

The Caroline Detention Center is one of approximately 200 facilities ICE can use to hold detainees. It's not a maximum security facility, but like all ICE facilities, it can accommodate higher-risk detainees. According to an ICE official, Heydari will remain in ICE custody pending immigration proceedings. 

It is not clear where he'll be sent if he's removed from the U.S. for a second time. ICE halted deportation flights to Afghanistan in late 2020. 

U.S. officials say that Heydari's arrest shows the system is working, but they have not answered questions about why Heydari wasn't flagged while he was still in Afghanistan or why his background wasn't discovered while he was at the transit point in Germany. 

Evacuees are screened against multiple government watchlists and vetted the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, the State Department, the National Counterterrorism Center and intelligence partners, according to Bob Fenton, DHS' lead coordinator on resettlement efforts.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday that while some Afghans have been flagged on terror watch lists in transit countries, they will not be permitted into the United States pending further investigation. "Our policy is not to board flights to the United States until they are cleared," Mayorkas said.

CBS News has contacted DHS for more information about Heydari's screening. 

Camilo Montoya-Galvez contributed to this report.

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