State leaders say Trump administration is holding back public safety funds

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NEWARK -

Some New Jersey state leaders are accusing the Trump administration of holding back much-needed public safety funds due to the state’s stance on undocumented immigrants.

New Jersey could be eligible to receive funding from the $257 million Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. But state leaders say that cities like Newark have not received the money because of its status as a “sanctuary city.”

President Donald Trump has said in the past that any city or state that refuses to enforce illegal immigration laws could lose out on funding.

“This money not only is there, it’s been committed to these towns,” says Rep. Bill Pascrell. “The government has…interposed itself between the grant and the town and said…these towns have to agree to do all of these things…to get this money. That’s not the deal.”

Newark officials have dubbed the town a “fair and welcoming city,” which means that police officers won’t investigate a residents’ immigration status.

Immigration officials say that this is a dangerous policy. But Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura says that he disagrees.

“If somebody comes up wanted or has a warrant out for them, we're duty-mandated to arrest and we do that,” he says. “So I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”

Newark received more than $320,000 from the grant program last year. The money was used for things like community policing and overtime hours for officers. Mayor Ras Baraka says that if he receives more funding he’d like to hire a few more police officers.

“That they’re going to refuse to give us needed dollars for us to police our community is wrong,” Baraka says.

State lawmakers say that withholding the funds is “extortion” and is bordering on unconstitutional. They say that they are also worried that the administration will also hold back on larger police hiring grants.

Ninety-four bipartisan House members wrote to the Department of Justice expressing their concerns over the delay in giving out the public safety funds.

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