Sen. Jeff Merkley: Trump Shorting Disaster Funding To Pay For Immigrant Detention

Sen. Jeff Merkley: Trump Shorting Disaster Funding To Pay For Immigrant Detention

Merkley posted a Transfer/Reprogramming document from DHS that shows $9,755,303 from FEMA to ICE out of FEMA's almost $1 billion operating budget. Those requests are not generally not made public.

"So I would dispute the statement that this has no bearing on addressing the challenges from hurricanes", Merkley said.

CNN reached out to the DHS IG for comment and is awaiting a response.

The document, which was released by the office of Senator Jeff Merkley, of OR, shows that the money would come from FEMA's operations and support budget and was transferred into accounts at ICE to pay for detention and removal operations. The U.S. Secret Service was also a beneficiary of the reallocation.

Merkley says this cash used to be redirected to back toughen the family separation policy. The total DHS budget for fiscal 2018 was $65 billion; FEMA's total budget was $15.5 billion.

"It wasn't enough to rip thousands of children out of the arms of their parents", Merkley said in a statement Tuesday night.

The documents surfaced, however, just as Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the American coast and is expected to make landfall on Thursday night at North Carolina and SC.

It's interesting you say that because it turns out the money has been transferred not just from FEMA.

The department has the authority to move funds around internally with the approval of Congress and transfers are not unusual.

Hurricane Florence kills at least three people
Rains are expected to be quite a real hazard from the storm, as it will have a slow movement towards SC before it turns north. More than 3,000 inmates at North Carolina prisons and juvenile detention centers were moved out of the storm's path.

It was taken from various places within FEMA, USA Today reported, including training, preparedness and protection, and response and recovery operations.

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 document mentions Fiscal Year 2018 but doesn't include an exact date. The document's file information indicates that it was created in late June, the first month of the Atlantic hurricane season. He linked the transfer of funds to the zero-tolerance policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May.

The feud between Merkley and FEMA and DHS has only escalated since he appeared on MSNBC'S "The Rachel Maddow Show" Tuesday night and CNN Wednesday morning.

The document shows the money is coming from the budget for travel, training, public engagement and IT instead of disaster relief. "DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs", said FEMA spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton. They do support his assertion that it has "Response and Recovery right on it".

"Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts", Houlton wrote.

Other Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees FEMA, also weighed in on the matter.

This time - as Hurricane Florence and a series of other storms barrel toward the US - the Department of Homeland Security division charged with responding to disasters says it's prepared even as the agency defends its 2017 response.

The transfers benefitted ICE's detention and removal operations, NBC News reported, and documents given to Congress specifically mentioned ICE's going millions over-budget in its effort to expand the capacity of its detention centers. "Nothing that the staffer said indicated that this was done somehow as a TV stunt". Thom Tillis of North Carolina said in an interview Wednesday.

The storm, which could hit the U.S. East Coast as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane as early as Thursday, is expected to have the greatest impact in North Carolina but parts of SC and Virginia are also in the hurricane's path. One of the things that we're actually working on right now with members of Congress is to get them to change that.

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