Trump Administration Moved $10 Million From FEMA Budget to ICE

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Homeland Security

FEMA Administrator Brock Long and the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday rejected a Democratic senator's claim that almost $10 million was diverted from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) released the Department of Homeland Security document, which authorizes the transfer of money from FEMA's travel, training, public engagement and information technology budgets for explicit use in ICE detention centers.

Congress has long restricted how much money goes to ICE as a way of forcing it to prioritize its immigration enforcement efforts.

"This is a scandal", Merkley said in a statement.

"I am hopeful that the administration will see the consequences of its actions and begin to work with Republicans AND Democrats to actually address the problems in our immigration system", he said in a statement.

Among other things, it redirected $9.75 million from FEMA's regional operations, response and recovery, mitigation, mission support and law enforcement training budgets.

In addition to this summer's widely condemned move to separate families at the border, the administration has drawn criticism for arresting a far greater rate of noncriminal undocumented immigrants and seeking to detain them much longer.

The document shows the amount transferred from FEMA to ICE is a sliver of the agency's budget.

DHS pointed out that the money transferred from FEMA to ICE is less than 1 percent of FEMA's budget, which was originally $1.03 billion for 2018.

The document does confirm that the money would be spent on ICE's detention facilities. Without the transfer, the document notes, "ICE will not be able to fulfill its adult detention requirements in FY 2018".

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.

Former DHS and FEMA officials, however, disputed the spokesman's claim that the money in question was distinct from "hurricane response", saying these funds were critical to the agency's overall mission of storm preparedness and response, even if they were not explicitly earmarked for disaster relief.

Politico, citing three people familiar with the matter, said the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) was probing Long's use of official vehicles to travel between Washington and his home in North Carolina during his time as FEMA director. "DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs", Tyler Q. Houlton wrote on Twitter.

The deal struck between Republican and Democratic lawmakers will keep the government open through spending bills that include a "continuing resolution" that fund federal agencies until December 7.

The funding shakeup comes as Trump and the DHS are struggling to fund a costly crackdown on illegal immigration.

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