Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Pascrell and Pallone Raise Questions Over FBI Outreach to Syrian Refugees

Feb 16, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) sent a letter to the Newark Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation raising concerns about reported FBI phone calls and attempts to meet in-person with Syrian refugees. The representatives questioned whether the FBI contact might have an adverse impact on ensuring refugees feel safe and secure in their communities.

“We write regarding reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Newark division has recently engaged in outreach efforts toward Syrian refugees,” the Congressmen wrote. “At a time when refugees have wrongly been cast as a suspect group, we fear these outreach efforts have had a negative impact and contradict the goal of law enforcement: to enforce the law in a way that ensures our residents feel safe and secure in their communities.”

Reps. Pascrell and Pallone asked the FBI to respond and clarify the extent and intentions of their outreach.

The full text of the letter can be found below (PDF here):

February 16, 2017

Mr. Timothy Gallagher
Special Agent in Charge
Federal Bureau of Investigation Field Office – Newark
11 Centre Place
Newark, NJ 07102

Dear Special Agent Gallagher:

We write regarding reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Newark division has recently engaged in outreach efforts toward Syrian refugees.  As representatives of impacted individuals and communities, we have serious questions about the Bureau’s actions and intent.

We are very concerned that the outreach by the FBI to build trust and establish open lines of communications will be misinterpreted by a vulnerable population that was recently resettled and come from a country where they rightly feared their own secret police. Syrian refugees, like many who have been resettled through the refugee program in New Jersey, have fled devastation and destruction in their homeland. At a time when refugees have wrongly been cast as a suspect group, we fear these outreach efforts have had a negative impact and contradict the goal of law enforcement: to enforce the law in a way that ensures our residents feel safe and secure in their communities. Going forward, we strongly encourage the FBI to partner with community organizations that work with refugee communities before approaching individual families that have been resettled. . 

In that context, much more information is needed about the goals of the FBI in its outreach efforts.  We ask that you answer the following questions as expeditiously and detailed as possible. 

  • When and why did this outreach begin? Who instructed this outreach to begin? 
  • Is it true that only refugees of Syrian origin have been contacted during this recent outreach effort, and if so, why? 
  • What is the intended outcome of the outreach?
  • Have Syrian refugees been asked to sign any documentation during meetings coordinated through FBI phone outreach?  If so, please provide copies of the documents individuals were asked to sign during these meetings with your response.
  • In reaching out to individuals did FBI agents explicitly say or indicate that a third party, such as a lawyer or representative from a refugee organization, was not able to participate in the meeting?
  • If these outreach efforts are intended to build trust, why has the FBI not partnered with resettlement agencies helping refugees, who have already developed bonds of trust? 

We look forward to your prompt and thorough response.

Sincerely,

_____________________________                                     _____________________________ 

FRANK PALLONE, JR.                                                       BILL PASCRELL, JR.

Member of Congress                                                             Member of Congress