CRANSTON – Mayor Alan W. Fung, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice this week, agreeing to terms required to receive funds from the DOJ’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program for fiscal 2017.
Cranston was also one of nine municipalities in the state to be eligible for direct allocation in fiscal 2018. The new requirements are designed to compel cities to cooperate with immigration officials.
“The steps we have taken this week ensure that criminals who are here illegally will be identified to federal authorities, so that they cannot continue to commit crimes in our city,” said Fung in a campaign statement Friday. Fung also promised that if he were elected governor, that Rhode Island would not be a “sanctuary state.”
The program has a new rule effective for fiscal 2017 funding, requiring municipalities to be certified in compliance with 8 U.S.C. § 1373, which bars restrictions on federal-local sharing of immigrant information. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security must have unlimited access to local police stations and law-enforcement facilities to interrogate suspects. Cities must also provide DHS with a notice of at least 48 hours for an arrestee’s release – a condition that would require detaining individuals beyond the permissible time set under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Fung’s announcement follows a lawsuit filed against the Department of Justice by Central Falls and Providence on Thursday, challenging the new rule’s inclusion in the grant program.
Cities that fail to comply would be ineligible for fiscal 2017 allocations and in years after.
Warwick Chief of Police Col. Stephen M. McCartney said the city was eligible for the grant and applied for the grant money, but neither the mayor nor the city solicitor signed the application – as was required. The city attached a cover letter citing concerns over the requirements of the grant program on a local police force. McCartney said that it was possible that the city may not receive the funds and that it may sue the DOJ if that situation arises.
The seven other municipalities that were eligible for allocations in fiscal 2018 did not immediately respond to PBN Friday afternoon. The requirements to which Central Falls, Providence and Warwick objected were not implanted in the program for funding prior to fiscal 2017 funding.
“The current administration in Washington claims to support public safety, but then inexplicably and maliciously targets the very grants that support our local police departments,” said Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza in a statement Thursday. “This absurd approach undermines community policing and would make us all less safe. Local police should be focused on preventing serious crime, not shaking down people who forgot to use their turn signal. We are filing this suit alongside … Central Falls because the federal administration’s plan would hinder the already demanding work of our police department and increase the risk for all residents.”
The R.I. Attorney’s General Office has also filed a lawsuit against the DOJ regarding the program’s new requirements.
In total for fiscal 2018, nine Rhode Island municipalities were eligible for $428,367 through the program. Rhode Island in aggregate was eligible for $778,980. Rhode Island was allocated a combined $767,114 for fiscal 2017 through the program.
Funds for the state and Central Falls and Providence are on hold pending litigation. The entities cannot access the funds, but they may not be reallocated.
The DOJ described the Byrne JAG program as the leading source of federal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions.
The nine eligible local municipalities are:
- Providence: $211,879
- Pawtucket: 57,224
- Woonsocket: $46,801
- City Falls: $29,286
- Cranston: $24,465
- Newport: $17,727
- Warwick: $14,962
- West Warwick: $13,331
- East Providence: $12,693
Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor.