DHS Says FEMA Money Transfer Won't Harm Hurricane Relief

Chris Kleponis  ZUMA Press  Newscom

Chris Kleponis ZUMA Press Newscom

Money was also taken from other agencies, including millions from the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard, to help ICE, the document shows.

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

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.

DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton called Merkley's announcement "a sorry attempt to push a false agenda", without denying the authenticity of the document.

"Without the transfers and reprogramming identified in this notification, ICE will not be able to fulfill its adult detention requirements in [fiscal year] 2018", the document reads.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, shared documents detailing the transfer on MSNBC Tuesday night, as Hurricane Florence bore down on the North and SC coasts.

DHS also transferred, per NBC News, $33 million from other programs within ICE to the agency's detention and removal operations.

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

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But FEMA, while not disputing the transfer, says the money came from the agency's "routine operating expenses" and not from disaster relief funds.

News of the budget transfer comes several weeks after FEMA acknowledged staffing shortages and logistical challenges in responding to Hurricane Maria a year ago in Puerto Rico, where aging infrastructure and island terrain complicated relief efforts. He said the document makes it clear ICE is using money from FEMA "to build more detention centers".

The precise timing of the reallocation is unclear, as the document, which refers to Fiscal Year 2018, does not include an exact date.

The story broke Tuesday night on MSBNC's "The Rachel Maddow Show", when Sen.

"I think it came as a shock to everyone that in the first month in the hurricane season, knowing what happened a year ago, that FEMA agreed to have $10 million taken out of its accounts, including significant amounts out of its response and recovery account and another significant amount out of its preparedness and protection account", he said. "DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs".

On Wednesday, FEMA director Brock Long told Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, that none of the $10 million transferred from FEMA to ICE came from the Disaster Relief Fund, saying that Merkley was "playing politics" ahead of Hurricane Florence. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said in an interview Wednesday.

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the other transferred funds. The Category 4 storm is expected to make landfall in North Carolina Thursday and may be the costliest hurricane in US history. One of the things that we're actually working on right now with members of Congress is to get them to change that.

It is estimated that Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, had total costs of $125 billion while Hurricane Irma had costs of $50 billion and Hurricane Maria cost $90 billion, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He also used the occasion to trumpet as an "incredible, unsung success" his administration's response to Hurricane Maria, which caused almost 3,000 deaths on Puerto Rico, a US territory already badly damaged by Hurricane Irma weeks earlier.

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