Donald Trump moved FEMA funds to ICE at start of hurricane season

Chris Kleponis  ZUMA Press  Newscom

Chris Kleponis ZUMA Press Newscom

The Trump administration shifted almost $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier this year to fund the detention and deportation immigrants, according to documents obtained by USA Today.

The budgeting document, "Department of Homeland Security FY 2018 transfer and reprogramming notifications", indicates that $9,755,303 was taken from FEMA, about 0.9 percent of the agency's listed overall budget, and given to support ICE.

Merkley, appearing Tuesday night on "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC, said the Trump administration was taking money from FEMA's "response and recovery" and "working hard to find funds for additional detention camps".

A DHS spokesperson acknowledged the funds had been redirected but said the transfer didn't jeopardize FEMA's relief efforts.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley first made the budget adjustment documents public, and has called the transfer a "scandal".

Insufficient funding could require ICE to "release any new book-ins and illegal border violators", and prevent ICE from deporting those who have violated immigration laws, the document reads.

The limitation "would pose significant risk to public safety and national security by permitting known offenders to remain at large", they wrote.

Numerous transfers came from key national security programs, including $1.8 million from the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, $9.8 million from FEMA, $29 million from the U.S. Coast Guard and more than $34 million from several TSA programs.

As Hurricane Florence comes barreling toward the Carolinas, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is busy readying their disaster response and putting pieces in place to ensure that the recovery goes as well as humanly possible. And for what? To implement their profoundly misguided "zero-tolerance" policy.

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. This would also include travel to his home in Hickory, North Carolina.

Tyler Houlton, a spokesman for Homeland Security, FEMA's parent agency, referred questions to the inspector general's office, which didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Now our Eastern Coast is left even more vulnerable in the path of Hurricane Florence", Leahy said. "FEMA officials have already stated that no money was transferred from disaster accounts, despite the misleading and distractive narrative being pushed. This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda".

He said the document makes it clear ICE is using money from FEMA "to build more detention centers". Travel is of the utmost importance as well, as FEMA is constantly moving human resources from location to location as need be. We shouldn't be diverting into other accounts.

"We always plan one category higher than what's anticipated, and the main primary driver of the evacuations is coastal storm surge, flood inundation, wind-driven water coming up on shore", said Long.

"ICE continues to spend at an unsustainable rate", the Senate Appropriations Committee report accompanying its proposal for Homeland Security next fiscal year says.

"We have plenty of resources to respond". Bennie Thompson, ranking member of the committee, said in a statement Wednesday.

But while FEMA officials issued dire warnings about the days ahead, President Donald Trump insisted-despite what Merkley's documents show-that the White House is "sparing no expense" and is "totally prepared" for the storm. "The federal government has people and supplies in Guam, Hawaii, and along the East coast from SC to Pennsylvania, but this will take all levels of government, the private sector, and individuals".

Florence is forecast to hit the Carolinas as a Category 4 hurricane later this week, one of the strongest storms to strike the area in almost 30 years.

Griffin Connolly contributed to the report.