Democrats Fume Over Transfer of FEMA Money to ICE Before Hurricanes

FEMA Says It’s Ready for Hurricane Florence, Defends 2017 Response

This summer, the Trump administration transferred almost $10 million away from the agency that responds to disasters and emergencies, redirecting it toward one of President Trump's top priorities - the deportation of undocumented residents of the U.S.

But DHS officials said the money was transferred from the department's unspent operational accounts for training, office supplies and headquarters costs.

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 agency that spearheads the federal response to natural disasters is down almost $10 million out of its $15 billion budget.

Money was also taken from other agencies, including millions from the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard, to help ICE, the document shows. It details the effects the transfer would have on FEMA's operations and from where in the budget the money would come. In Puerto Rico, where the estimated death toll from Hurricane Maria has ranged as high as 5,000, the Government Accountability Office said the agency's poor response was compounded by a failure to deploy enough qualified staff.

The document does confirm that the money would be spent on ICE's detention facilities.

Funds are regularly transferred among government departments.

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He said the document makes it clear ICE is using money from FEMA "to build more detention centers".

The funds transfer is prompting the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cut back on training, IT security and infrastructure investments, according to a document sent to Congress and released by Democratic Sen.

But FEMA Administrator Brock Long also said the agency was facing an unprecedented workload that included the three catastrophic hurricanes, historic wildfires in California and dozens of other disasters.

Merkley has been a leading critic of the Trump administration's immigration policies, including the "zero tolerance" policy at the border that resulted in almost 3,000 children separated from their families.

The department then must notify the chairs of the relevant congressional appropriations subcommittees, who must approve. Since Republicans are in the majority for both the House and Senate, those lawmakers lead the committees.

"I would dispute the statement that this has no bearing on addressing the challenges from hurricanes", Merkley told Maddow. "Since his confirmation, the Administrator quickly earned the respect of the entire emergency management community, many in Congress and, most importantly, the FEMA workforce, during the most historic and challenging time in the agency's history", she said. Future requests should include "transparent and publically-available evidence" that the money is required because of "circumstances. that are truly beyond ICE's control", the senators said.

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