A senior FEMA official said the agency is well positioned to respond to Hurricane Florence, despite a report that almost $10 million from the emergency management agency was transferred this summer to help boost U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
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 documents said the money, about nine-tenths of one percent of FEMA's annual budget, would be transferred from FEMA's "Preparedness and Protection" and "Response and Recovery" undertakings to pay for detention beds and ICE's Transportation and Removal Program. The transfer of almost $10 million from FEMA ignited public outrage as the southeastern United States braces for a powerful hurricane, Florence, and the likelihood of a costly response and cleanup effort.
The DHS documents released by Merkley give this justification for the money reprogramming: "Without the transfers and reprogramming identified in this notification, ICE will not be able to fulfill its adult detention requirements in FY 2018".
$9.8 million in funding is being transferred by the Trump administration, away from FEMA and to ICE.
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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. Leahy, vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said no Democrats supported the transfers.
"This is a scandal", Merkley, said in a statement Wednesday. Homeland Security press secretary Tyler Houlton also stated that DHS did not shift disaster relief funding away from FEMA.
"This is yet another example of the Trump Administration's outrageously misplaced homeland security priorities", said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., the top Democrat on the House Committee on Homeland Security.
It's not the first time DHS has redirected money from other agencies to ICE.
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In the documents, it is stated FEMA "will curtail training, travel and public engagement in response to the cuts".
Without the extra money, officials warned in the request, they may be forced to suspend arrests and deportations of people deemed "threats to public safety" until Congress passes a full spending bill. But that is still less than 1% of its overall operations budget.
"I would dispute the statement that this has no bearing on. addressing the challenges from hurricanes", Merkley said. "[It's] this pattern of misbehavior by ICE where they overspend the amount they have been given by Congress, specifically for immigration detention, and then they make it up by basically robbing other accounts in DHS", Mary Small, director of the immigrant rights group Detention Watch Network, told CNN. "However, that includes things such as training", he said.
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