Contrary to the statement DHS gave to us, the document appears to show that millions of dollars did indeed come from FEMA's response and recovery budget to fund added ICE detentions. pic.twitter.com/vqxhRyK38C— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) September 12, 2018
In 2017, for the first time in over a decade, the United States was hit by the highest number of major hurricanes that took nearly 5,000 lives and caused damage of at least $282.16 billion– thanks in large to the Trump administration, which reportedly offered budget cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) just ahead of the hurricane season.
The country is now once again facing a new extreme weather threat in the form of Hurricane Florence – and the administration appears to be repeating its past mistakes.
According to the documents released by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), President Donald Trump reportedly slashed nearly $10 million out of FEMA’s budget in order to fund Immigration and Customs Enforcement immigration (ICE) detention centers.
The documents, first reported by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, detailed the transfers were made earlier this summer, right before the start of hurricane season.
Merkley, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, claimed the administration is taking money from "response and recovery" and "working hard to find funds for additional detention camps."
“It means that just as hurricane season is starting...the administration is working hard to find funds for child detention camps. So $10 million dollars comes out of FEMA when we're facing hurricane season, knowing what happened last year, and look what's happened since?" Merkley told Maddow.
Moreover, the diverted funds that ICE has accumulated, totaled to over $33 million which "will provide funding in support of higher priority detention and removal requirements than those for which originally appropriated," according to the documents.
The CNN also received a copy of the document from the Democrat’s office. It further detailed how FEMA’s operations will be impacted now since some of its budget is gone.
"FEMA will curtail training, travel, public engagement sessions, IT security support and infrastructure maintenance, and IT investments in the legacy grants systems for transition to the Grants Management Modernization Program," the document read.
Subsequently, Homeland Security Press Secretary Tyler Houlton disputed the fact DHS shifted disaster relief funding away from FEMA.
"Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts," Houlton said on Twitter. "This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda at a time when the administration is focused on assisting millions on the East Coast facing a catastrophic disaster."
"The money in question -- transferred to ICE from FEMA's routine operating expenses -- could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations. DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs," he added.
Though the DHS further claimed the money for its operation will come from the agency's budgets for travel, training, public engagement and information technology work, the document in question implied FEMA and nine other agencies had approximately one percent taken from their budgets to be put toward ICE's detention facilities.
If we look at things from a broader perspective, $10 million from the FEMA’s budget isn’t quite big of an amount considering its annual budget is about $15 billion. But spending $10 million on building cages for migrant kids, deportations and internment camps instead of providing food and shelter to people who got hit by some natural disaster, seems to be a major misuse of funds.
It just makes little or no sense why would the administration prioritize building detention centers for immigrants instead of preparing for the storm, which is literally looming over the country.
“There is an increasing risk of life-threatening impacts from Florence: Storm surge at the coast, freshwater flooding from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event inland and damaging hurricane-force winds,” warned the National Hurricane Service in the beginning of this week.
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