94 House Members Send Bipartisan Letter Opposing DOJ’s Federal Immigration Requirements on Law Enforcement Grants
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Dave Reichert (R-WA) led a bipartisan letter with 92 colleagues to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) expressing concerns about the delay in disbursing funds for a community crime-fighting program to states.
The letter expresses opposition to the DOJ’s decision to add compliance with federal immigration priorities as a factor in receiving Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne JAG) and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program grants. Additionally, the letter urges DOJ to release over $257 million in approved funds for the Byrne JAG program, the cornerstone federal crime-fighting program that enables communities to target resources to their most pressing local needs, as soon as possible. Failure to release these funds has prevented all 50 states and six U.S. territories from receiving these critical federal resources to aid law enforcement’s ability to prevent crime. Finally, the letter expresses concern that the cause of the delay is related to litigation on new requirements DOJ has placed on Byrne JAG recipients related to their enforcement of federal immigration law, jeopardizing their ability to maintain law and order and do their job effectively.
"These funds are vital to law enforcement’s efforts to keep our communities safe. We strongly urge the DOJ to remove any certification requirements or grant preferences related to federal immigration priorities, so as not to impact the ability of our state and local officers to protect their communities," the members wrote.
Background on the Byrne JAG Program
The Byrne JAG program allows states and local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crimes based on their own local needs and conditions. Grants can be used for state and local initiatives, technical assistance, training, personnel, equipment, supplies, contractual support and information systems for criminal justice for any one or more of the following areas: 1) law enforcement programs; 2) prosecution and court programs; 3) prevention and education programs; 4) corrections and community corrections programs; 5) drug treatment programs and 6) planning, evaluation and technology improvement programs.
Background on the COPS Hiring Program
The COPS Hiring Program provides invaluable resources and technical assistance to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to address the full-time sworn officer needs in communities that may lack the resources to hire the officers they need to protect their citizens. These grants go directly to law enforcement agencies to hire new and/or rehire career law enforcement officers in an effort to increase their community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts. Since its inception, the COPS office has placed over 127,000 sworn law enforcement officers in communities across the country.
Text of the bipartisan letter follows:
December 21, 2017
The Honorable Jeff Sessions
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Attorney General Sessions:
We write in opposition to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to add compliance with federal immigration priorities as a factor in receiving critical law enforcement grants, including the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) Program and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program. These funds are vital to law enforcement’s efforts to keep our communities safe. We strongly urge the DOJ to remove any certification requirements or grant preferences related to federal immigration priorities, so as not to impact the ability of our state and local officers to protect their communities.
The COPS Hiring and Byrne JAG programs are the cornerstone of our federal justice assistance programs. Since their inception, these critical federal funding streams provide state and local law enforcement with necessary resources to form vital partnerships among communities and law enforcement officers, prevent and reduce crime and terrorism, and develop and implement problem-solving and crime prevention programs nationwide. These grants provide funding for the implementation of state and local initiatives, technical assistance, training, personnel, and equipment.
As you know, DOJ was scheduled to disburse over $257 million in Byrne JAG funds to each state and six territories in the United States. To date the DOJ has not disbursed these funds. We are concerned that additional delays in providing these funds will undermine state and local law enforcement's efforts to keep our communities safe. We understand the cause of the delay is related to litigation over the new federal immigration law requirements DOJ placed on potential Byrne JAG recipients; however, delaying these funds is punishing the law enforcement officers on the ground doing their jobs and trying to keep their communities safe. In fact, any delay in getting these much-needed resources to law enforcement jeopardizes their ability to maintain law and order and do their jobs effectively. As a result, communities across our nation remain more at risk every day because state and local officers don’t have access to these funds. Therefore, we urge you to release these funds as soon as possible.
Further, we understand the DOJ gave preference to COPS Hiring Program applications that certified compliance with federal immigration priorities. This type of preference penalizes law enforcement and the citizens they serve in order to force a policy change outside of law enforcement’s control. It is the civilian local governments – not police departments – who make the laws. Law enforcement officers do not have the luxury of picking and choosing which laws to enforce, nor should they.
These critical federal funding streams were intended to ensure that underfunded and understaffed police departments have the staff and resources necessary to maintain public safety. However, making receipt of these grants contingent on compliance with federal immigration priorities puts these same local departments, who are already struggling due to a lack of resources, in a position where they cannot effectively do their job.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you to support local law enforcement and ensure they have the resources needed to keep all of us safe.
Bill Pascrell Jr.
G. K. Butterfield
Salud O. Carbajal
David N. Cicilline
Danny K. Davis
Rosa L. DeLauro
Nanette Diaz Barragán
Eliot L. Engel
Alcee L. Hastings
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Sheila Jackson Lee
Peter T. King
Ted W. Lieu
Frank A. LoBiondo
Stephen F. Lynch
James P. McGovern
Frank Pallone Jr.
Sean Patrick Maloney
Donald Payne Jr.
Bobby L. Rush
Linda T. Sánchez
Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
José E. Serrano
Nydia M. Velázquez
Peter J. Visclosky
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Bonnie Watson Coleman