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

Sen. Jeff Merkley D-Ore. second from right speaks to members of the media outside of the Southwest Key Casa Padre Facility in Brownsville Texas in June

Tina Burch/ZUMA Press/NewscomThe Trump administration came under fire this week following the revelation that almost $10 million had been transferred from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to help pay for the detention and removal of immigrants.

He added, "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".

The budget documents, first made public by Senator Jeff Merkley (D) OR on Tuesday show the transfer would help fund immigration detention centers, and $4 million of which taken directly from FEMA's response and recovery OR preparedness and protection categories.

Merkley first disclosed on MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show" that he had obtained budget documents showing the transfers out of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and into the budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "FEMA officials have already stated that no money was transferred from disaster accounts, despite the misleading and distractive narrative being pushed".

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.

"ICE must have sufficient detention bed capacity to detain illegal aliens when necessary as it enforces the Nation's immigration laws as fairly and effectively as possible", the budget document states. Patrick Leahy (D-VM) told the Associated Press that Republican subcommittee chairs signed off on the transfers, without any Democratic support.

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Many people in coastal communities have followed the mandatory evacuation orders, but some are vowing to stay put and ride it out. Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Brock Long, the agency's administrator, is the target of an ongoing Department of Homeland Security investigation into whether he misused government vehicles on weekend trips home to Hickory, North Carolina, from Washington, Politico reported Thursday.

DHS did not deny the funds reprogramming, but was insistent that no funds were cut from the part of FEMA's budget that would aid in hurricane disaster relief. Other agencies had money moved around. "It has been no secret that President Trump's obsession with his wall, mass deportation and indiscriminate detention of children comes at a hefty price.and now our Eastern Coast is left even more vulnerable in the path of Hurricane Florence".

"I would dispute the statement that this has no bearing on. addressing the challenges from hurricanes", Merkley said. And for what? To implement their profoundly misguided "zero-tolerance" policy.

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.

No need to wonder what this administration really cares about.

"As an overall, the meeting was long on excuses and on misrepresentations and short on information and solutions. one thing we do know, they are taking 1% of every DHS department and putting that towards family detention and family separation", Gallego said.

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