Trump Takes Funds From FEMA And The Coast Guard To Build More ICE Camps (Video)

This week, as the East Coast was preparing for Hurricane Florence, the federal government was prioritizing all available resources to successfully address the storm’s aftermath.

Just kidding.

Actually, as the East Coast was preparing for Hurricane Florence, the Trump administration was transferring $9.8 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief budget to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for more migrant detention camps at the Southern border.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, first reported this in a budget document he discussed Tuesday on Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC, saying:

“It means that just as hurricane season is starting because it generally starts June 1st, the administration is working hard to find funds for additional detention camps, and of course, this is all part of the child separation policy. And that’s how this information came into my hands, because of my work on this issue of trying to stop the child separations. But in fact so $10 million comes out of FEMA when we’re facing a hurricane season, knowing what happened last year, and then look what we’ve had since, a hurricane just barely missed a tropical storm that almost became a hurricane hit Mississippi, and now we have this hurricane Florence bearing down on the Carolinas.”

Tyler Q. Houlton of The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) denies any funds were diverted from FEMA’s disasters relief accounts, tweeting:

“Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from to immigration enforcement efforts. 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 added:

“The money in question — transferred to ICE from FEMA’s routine operating expenses — could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations. DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs.”

Maddow, though, broke down the messages, stating they did not refute the Sen. Merkley’s report.

She explained:

 “Instead [a spokesperson] told us that the money didn’t come from any of our disaster response and recovery efforts, but again, it appears that it did come from FEMA.” 

Sen. Merkley confirmed the administration is permitted to transfer funds between agencies so long as it informs Congress. An amount $5 million requires committee chair notification.

According to an agency email, FEMA’s disaster response funding is in a separate $25 billion account, and the funds in question total less than one percent of operational accounts, taken from money to defray employee travel expenses, training, basic purchase cards, office supplies, and other items.

The budget documents from Sen. Merkley indicate the transfers between FEMA and ICE occurred after Donald Trump called last year’s hurricane response efforts by FEMA in Puerto Rico an “unsung success,” adding:

“The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous.”

He would think it was “tremendous” since he apparently believes the nearly 3,000 Puerto Rican Americans who died last year were a lie Democrats cooked up to politically wound him.

But the Trump administration did not just give ICE money from FEMA–it also took $29 million from the U.S. Coast Guard, the military branch most necessary during natural disasters like hurricanes.

Remember this next week when Trump visits the Carolinas and claims to have done a “tremendous” job.

Tremendous indeed.

Image credit: Crooks and Liars

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.