WASHINGTON — Democratic members of New Jersey's congressional delegation are concerned about the delay in distributing grant money for local law enforcement.

The members suspect it is an effort to "punish state and local government for their immigration laws and policies," according to a letter they sent Monday to Attorney General Jeff Session. The $4 million from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant was already supposed to be in the hands of "the State of New Jersey and its municipalities," although the letter does not mention an exact date.

The letter also points out that any withholding of funds would violate a court order by withholding funds for this reason.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office has not yet returned a message from New Jersey 101.5. Spokesman Devin O'Malley told NJ.com the delay was because of a lawsuit filed by the city of Chicago.

President Donald Trump had threatened to withhold all federal funds from communities that declare themselves "Sanctuary Cities" and do no cooperate with federal agents or law enforcement in detaining or questioning people over their immigration status.

The issue is now made even more acute, as now-Gov. Elect Phil Murphy said during the campaign that he would declare all of New Jersey a "sanctuary state." His Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Kim Gudagno, spent the final weeks of her campaign focused on distinguishing herself from Murphy on this issue.

According to a list composed by the the Center for Immigration Studies updated on Aug. 25, Middlesex, Ocean and Union counties are considered "sanctuary counties" along with Newark.  Morristown's Town Council in September declared itself a "fair and welcoming city."

Supporters of such policies believe that immigrants will not cooperate with law enforcement or seek vital services if they feel that they are under threat of being detained or deported.

Contact Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ.