NEWARK, NJ- More than eight months after Congressman Bill Pascrell was the lead signatory to a letter urging the Trump administration to release nearly $6 million in crime fighting funds to the State of New Jersey the veteran Paterson lawmaker has again chastised President Donald Trump for choosing to “play politics with law enforcement.”

On Monday Pascrell joined with two of his colleagues in the House of Representatives, Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ-10) and Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ-06), as well as with Newark Mayor Ras Baraks, to say that the funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne JAG) is being held hostage “to force New Jersey’s compliance with the Trump administration’s radical, right-wing immigration agenda.

“Local law enforcement strategies should not be undermined by Trump forcing states and localities to enforce his cruel, draconian immigration policies. Like using children as pawns, holding local police hostage is despicable, and New Jersey is fighting back tooth and nail,” said Pascrell. “The value of the Byrne JAG program is felt in nearly every corner of the American criminal justice system.”

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In January 2017 Trump signed an executive order on so-called sanctuary cities, which sought to withhold funds from cities that chose not to cooperate with federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. Just weeks later then Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres issued a press release that stopped short of using the term but said that Paterson Police Department would not subscribe to mandates by federal authorities that hurt local families “who are doing nothing more than raising their families and contributing to the vibrant culture and successful economy of our great city,”

According to Pascrell’s office Paterson is owed $137,928 in Byrne JAG grant funding. 

Police Director Jerry Speziale told TAPinto Paterson that while there has always been an application process to receive the funding the dollars were almost “guaranteed” and are ones that Paterson, as well as other jurisdictions “depend on.” In the past these funds have been used locally for increased foot patrols, vehicles, equipment, special operations, and other “strategic police initiatives.”  

Speziale has an especially close connection to the program, he offered, as he worked the case of NYPD Officer Edward Byrne who was killed in 1988 while on detail protecting a witness in a drug case. Byrne, whom the program is named after, was just 22 at the time.

Saying that the US Attorney General is trying to force states to make a false choice by suggesting that “either you adopt the same harsh, anti-immigrant policies as the federal government, or you don’t get federal grant funding for critical anti-violence programs,” New Jersey Attorney General Grewal announced last week that New Jersey has joined five other states in a lawsuit against the federal government to secure the release of the funding.

“We will not allow the federal government to weaponize federal grant funding in an effort to advance the President’s agenda."