At the height of hurricane season, President Donald Trump authorized the transfer of almost $10 million in money intended for the Federal Emergency Management Agency for use in United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, a newly released document shows.
As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the Carolinas, newly released documents show the Trump Administration took money away from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies to pay for immigration detention centers.
The $10 million transfer came not from disaster accounts but from a pot of money at headquarters, covering employee training, travel, purchase card expenses and the like.
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.
The almost $10 million diverted to ICE comes from a roughly $1 billion operating budget that supports much of FEMA's efforts beyond the immediate response to a declared emergency, said a former FEMA official who asked not to be identified because he still does business with the agency.
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".
DHS also transferred, per NBC News, $33 million from other programs within ICE to the agency's detention and removal operations.
Long, who took over past year shortly before Hurricane Harvey struck, said he didn't want the investigation to detract from preparations for a major storm was heading for the U.S.
Four storms swirling in Atlantic as Tropical Storm Joyce forms
Florence, however, continues to threaten the east coast as a fierce storm that could trigger flooding as far south as Georgia. Ireland is expected to endure the worst of the storm, while Wales and the Cornish peninsula will bear its brunt in England.
Recent statistics show the administration is on track this year to deport substantially more than the 226,000 immigrants deported in 2017, though final numbers won't be available for several weeks.
The head of the government's disaster relief agency said Thursday he never intentionally misused federal vehicles, following a report he was under investigation by the Homeland Security Department's internal watchdog.
Small's organization provided Merkley with the DHS document.
"This is a scandal", Merkley said in an emailed statement to the Post.
The Senate's appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security has, less publicly, expressed similar concerns.
House lawmakers were told about the decision to make the payment in late July. "Since his confirmation, the Administrator quickly earned the respect of the entire emergency management community, many in Congress and, most importantly, the FEMA workforce, during the most historic and challenging time in the agency's history", she said.
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. That includes staff, meetings and exercises, he said - all crucial to readiness for the next hurricane season.