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

Evarado Alatorre
Setiembre 14, 2018

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.

As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the Carolinas, newly released documents show the Trump Administration took money away from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies to pay for immigration detention centers.

A spokesman for DHS responded to Merkley's allegations in a series of tweets late Tuesday, acknowledging the budgetary reallocation but arguing that the funds in question came from "FEMA's routine operating expenses" and "could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriations limitations".

A top FEMA official attempted Wednesday to warn people in the path of Hurricane Florence but instead had to shoot down reporters' questions about whether the Trump administration wasted disaster funds on its illegal immigration agenda.

He based his claim on a 39-page Department of Homeland Security transfer and reprogramming report dated August 31.

The $10 million from FEMA did not come from the agency's disaster relief budget, the agencies noted.

Long, who took over previous year shortly before Hurricane Harvey struck, said he didn't want the investigation to detract from preparations for a major storm was heading for the U.S. Patrick Leahy (D-VM) told the Associated Press that Republican subcommittee chairs signed off on the transfers, without any Democratic support.

The Post did report that the transfer of funds was a matter of national security and public safety.

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Congress sets funding levels for all parts of government through the appropriations process, but funding reprogramming requests like this one are authorized under the law for relatively small amounts of money within agencies.

Long addressed the IG investigation during a FEMA briefing on Thursday, saying that his office will be working with the IG's "to make improvements to make sure we are running programs and policies according to regulation".

"We have plenty of resources both monetary, staff and commodities to respond to the unsafe storm that is Hurricane Florence", said administrator Jeff Byard.

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

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.

Doesn't Congress get a say how money is spent?

Gonzalez along with other Democrats said the GOP postpone the meeting and Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) "feel short" to investigating and evaluating relief efforts. "However, that includes things such as training", he said.

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