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

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

Sen. Jeff Merkley released a document Tuesday showing a transfer of almost $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and accused President Donald Trump's administration of diverting funds from hurricane relief just as hurricane season was starting.

Money was also taken from other agencies, such as Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard, and given to ICE as part of a $201.88 million shift in money to pay for immigration detention facilities.

In a tweet Tuesday night, DHS spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton said the money came from FEMA's routine operating expenses, and "could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations".

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.

It is not uncommon for cabinet-level agencies to swap money, but FEMA's budget was thrown into disarray by the number of hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters in 2017.

The money transferred to ICE was a small percentage of FEMA's overall budget but not related to its disaster relief funding budget.

After the devastation of last year's storms - the triple wallop of Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma - FEMA should have the funds it needs to be prepared for another disastrous hurricane season. 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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Merkley's office blasted the comment.

In a statement, FEMA Director of External Affairs Jessica Nalepa referred any questions about the reported investigation to the DHS inspector general's office, and said the disaster agency cooperated with all such investigations.

This June, a group of immigrant and human rights groups raised the alarm about ICE's requests for fund transfers, accusing DHS of "asking for forgiveness rather than permission after dramatically overspending its appropriated budget in ways both morally reprehensible and fiscally irresponsible".

"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 ERO is funded by an indefinite appropriation", the statement said.

"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 previous year. "Fomenting fears against immigrants is not governing - it's demagoguery on the taxpayer's dime".

House lawmakers were told about the decision to make the payment from FEMA to ICE in late July. "However, that includes things such as training", he said.

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