USA says transfer from FEMA funds won't harm hurricane relief

Clay Curtis
September 14, 2018

Jeff Merkley's claim that the Trump administration diverted $10 million from FEMA to ICE for housing illegal immigrants caught up in the President Trump's zero tolerance policy at the border.

Sen. Jeff Merkley of OR said the administration was taking money from FEMA's "response and recovery" to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency at a time when Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the Southeast U.S. coast.

Furthering the bad optics over the money transfer is that went toward immigrant detention and deportation efforts, which have been maxed out, DHS says, under the push to arrest and deport more undocumented immigrants by the Trump administration, including this summer's family separations that resulted in heartrending stories of children being separated from their parents.

The document also shows that the Department of Homeland Security transferred money from accounts at Customs and Border Protection that pays for border fencing and technology.

The hearing titled, "Evaluating Federal Disaster Response and Recovery Efforts", would have reviewed FEMA's response to natural disaster.

He told USA TODAY that after the devastation of last year's storms, including hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma, FEMA should have the funds it needs to be prepared for another disastrous hurricane season. Leahy, a Democrat who is the Senate Appropriations Committee vice chairman, said the transfer was approved by the subcommittee chairs and no Democrats signed off on it.

The Post did report that the transfer of funds was a matter of national security and public safety.

Homeland Security press secretary Tyler Houlton denied that DHS shifted disaster relief funding away from FEMA.

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It's not the first time DHS has redirected money from other agencies to ICE.

"This is a scandal", Merkley, said in a statement Wednesday.

Small said the request was part of a broader problem, and accused ICE of "robbing" money for themselves to expand their deportation and detention capabilities even beyond what Congress intends.

According to a 2017 House statement about DHS funding, "The lack of fiscal discipline and cavalier management of funding for detention operations, evidenced by inaccurate budget formulation and uneven execution, seems to be the result of a perception that [ICE's enforcement and removal operations are] funded by an indefinite appropriation".

"It's shameful but not surprising that the President would rob FEMA to pay for his callous policy of ripping families apart", Connolly said in a statement, which also criticized the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico a year ago.

The policy led to thousands of families being separated and housed in detention centers, which he says may have increased the need for more money in ICE's budget.

Many Democratic lawmakers have called for the agency to be abolished. That includes staff, meetings and exercises, he said - all crucial to readiness for the next hurricane season.

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