FBI contacting newly arrived Syrian refugees, is the FBI doing this on its own?
Posted by Ann Corcoran on February 15, 2017
I suppose one could argue that this effort to meet Syrian (mostly Muslim) refugees is harmless, but I have to say I think it is politically tone-deaf at the moment.
Is the FBI getting direction from above or are they making this effort completely without direction? Does no one in the FBI leadership see how this would be upsetting, that it adds fuel to a political fire, or is that exactly what they are doing—making the Trump Admin. look heavy-handed?
FBI agents have been calling Syrian refugees in New Jersey and asking to meet – alarming advocates who say they fear the visits could be a first step toward surveillance at a time when refugees have been cast as a suspect group.
The FBI’s Newark division has confirmed that calls were made to refugees, but said agents were only trying to “build trust” and “open lines of communication” with the recently arrived immigrants and not for surveillance.
At least three Syrian refugees received calls last week from an Arabic-speaking agent who requested an in-person meeting, according to advocates who have been helping Syrians adjust to their new lives in the U.S. They were told the meetings were part of a larger outreach effort to check on Syrians and their well-being, the advocates said.
Salim Patel, chairman of the board of the Smile Organization, a Passaic-based nonprofit service group whose clients include many refugees, said the calls were received “with great alarm” because of the political climate, with news of Trump’s immigration ban weighing on people’s minds.
Mohamed Khairullah, an activist aiding refugees who is also Prospect Park mayor, said he worries that the newcomers, who typically don’t speak English, could be coerced into signing something they don’t understand.
“They’re not aware of their rights, and they’re not aware of the protections provided to them by the law or the Constitution,” he said.
In a Facebook message in Arabic, he encouraged families contacted by the FBI to reach out to a lawyer. At Know Your Rights workshops across the state, staffed by civil rights and legal associations, attorneys are giving the same advice.
Dumb is all I have to say.
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