DHS, Senator Spar Over Funds Transfer from FEMA to ICE

As Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast of the United States, threatening widespread flooding, property damage, and dangerous conditions for residents of the Carolinas, one Democratic Senator this week suggested that the response efforts could be impacted by his claim “that nearly $10 million from the government’s disaster relief agency was transferred to immigration enforcement.”

In support of his claim, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) released a 39-page Department of Homeland Security report from August 31st.

There has been disagreement over how impactful the transfer might actually be, with the $10 million representing only a sliver of FEMA’s $15 billion annual budget.

As reported by CBS News, the funds transferred from FEMA to ICE were used for removals, transportation, and adult detention beds, with the report claiming the transfer is necessary as, without it, “ICE will not be able to fulfill its adult detention requirements.”

CBS notes that, “in the request for a transfer of funds, more than $4 million of the funds from FEMA are listed as ‘response and recovery’ or ‘preparedness and protection.”

However, according to the same document, “mission impact is minimized as FEMA will curtail training, travel, public engagement sessions, IT security support, and infrastructure maintenance” in order to make up for the lost funding.

DHS vocally pushed back against the claim that the transfer could weaken FEMA’s ability to respond to hurricane season.

“Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from FEMA to immigration enforcement efforts,” DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton said. “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.”

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