As Hurricane Dorian makes its way toward Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced plans Tuesday (August 27) to move $271 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Coast Guard to support the Trump administration’s immigration programs, The Washington Post reports.
Lawmakers told The Post that the money will come from an “unobligated” pool in the base disaster relief fund at FEMA. Reportedly, it isn’t unusual for federal officials to transfer funds between agencies within the same department at the end of the fiscal year. In fact, this time last year, Democrats slammed plans to transfer $10 million out of FEMA’s budget.
DHS officials released a statement on Tuesday (August 27) saying they will use $155 million of the funds to pay for the creation of temporary facilities along the southern border that will be used to hold “hearings with the aim of moving asylum cases through the system faster.”
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), chair of the House Committee on Appropriations’s Homeland Security Subcommittee, told The Post that this transfer of funds will support “inhumane” programs, while valuable programs are left to suffer. “I am greatly concerned that during the course of this administration, there has been a growing disconnect between the will of Congress…and the implementation of the department’s immigration enforcement operations,” she said.
In addition to the $155 million that will fund new facilities, DHS will also commandeer $116 million for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention space. From The Post:
Congress allocated 45,000 beds for detention, but as of August 24, ICE was detaining 54,344 people. Congress specifically did not authorize additional ICE funding for detention beds when it approved an emergency supplemental funding request of about $1.3 billion from Homeland Security to manage the huge increase in migrants.
“Given the rise of single adults crossing the border, ICE has already had to increase the number of detention beds above what Congress funded,” according to the DHS statement. Without the funding increase ICE can’t keep up with apprehensions by Border Patrol. “This realignment of resources allows DHS to address ongoing border emergency crisis…while minimizing the risk to overall DHS mission performance,” according to the statement.
Bennie Thompson (D-Miss), chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told The Post that this move puts countless lives at risk. “Taking money away from TSA and from FEMA in the middle of hurricane season could have deadly consequences,” he said.