Merkley rejected DHS's claim in an appearance on "The Rachel Maddow Show" Tuesday night, noting that the budget document he obtained shows the "money came from response and recovery". But this pattern has been repeated three years in a row, actually, where ICE has overspent the amount of money that they were given by Congress for detention and removal, deliberately overspent that money and then gotten an infusion of funds from taking money from other parts, other accounts, into the detention account.
President Donald Trump's Homeland Security Department shifted almost $10 million from FEMA to the U.S. DHS said the money came from an operations account, which the spokesperson said covers everything from training to office supplies and "cannot be used for disaster response". "This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda at a time when the administration is focused on assisting millions on the East Coast facing a catastrophic disaster", he said in a tweet.
However, money was taken from the response and recovery, preparedness and protection and mission support operations budgets, which are used to prepare for emergencies like Florence.
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. In March, the White House appealed to Congress to agree to fund 51,000 beds in immigration centers, citing a growing need for space amid stepped up enforcement policies.
"$10 million comes out of FEMA when we're facing a hurricane season knowing what's happened past year", Merkley added. He accused the administration of diverting funds from hurricane relief just as hurricane season was starting. And for what? To implement their profoundly misguided "zero-tolerance" policy.
"This is a scandal", Merkley said in an emailed statement to the Post.
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Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, defended the transfer in an interview on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports", saying it had nothing to do with response efforts and that the agency spends billions of dollars to manage disasters. "It does not pay for this response, it is not coming out of the disaster relief fund, it has no impact on our efforts to be prepared for Hurricane Florence, it's just, unfortunately, we have a congressman that is playing politics on the back of Florence".
The Trump administration shifted almost US$10 million (NZ$15 million) from the federal agency in charge of hurricane and natural disaster response at the start of hurricane season to help fund the enforcement of immigration policies.
A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, which also houses FEMA, said that under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from FEMA to immigration enforcement efforts.
The money is listed as from "FEMA" with the appropriation level "Operations & Support". "Bottom line is if we made a mistakes on how a program is run, we'll work with OIG to get those corrected", Long said.
"This is yet another example of the Trump Administration's outrageously misplaced homeland security priorities", said Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of MS, ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security. FEMA officials said the hurricane could be the strongest storm to hit the Carolinas and Virginia region "in decades". Florence is expected to make landfall in southeast North Carolina on Friday as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, bringing destructive winds and leaving flooding in its wake.