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14 September 2018, 07:50 | Darnell Patrick
FEMA Says It’s Ready for Hurricane Florence, Defends 2017 Response
Tina Burch/ZUMA Press/NewscomThe Trump administration came under fire this week following the revelation that almost $10 million had been transferred from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to help pay for the detention and removal of immigrants.
In a statement to MSNBC, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-which requested the $10 million in an effort to provide more funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) detention and deportation programs-confirmed that it did transfer the money away from FEMA, but insisted that none of the funds came from the agency's disaster response and recovery efforts.
While DHS spokespeople have claimed the FEMA money did not come from its disaster relief coffers, the documents sent to Congress indicated it came from FEMA's "operations and support" funds.
The budget documents, first made public by Senator Jeff Merkley (D) OR on Tuesday show the transfer would help fund immigration detention centers, and $4 million of which taken directly from FEMA's response and recovery OR preparedness and protection categories.
Well, that didn't stop him from pulling almost $10 million from this year's FEMA budget, right at the beginning of hurricane season, to help fund ICE. In Puerto Rico, where the estimated death toll from Hurricane Maria has ranged as high as 5,000, the Government Accountability Office said the agency's poor response was compounded by a failure to deploy enough qualified staff.
However, the document confirms that the money would be spent on ICE's detention capacity and deportation efforts.
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.
Addressing the issue, DHS spokesman Tyler Houston said no funds were taken from disaster relief programs.
"This is a scandal", Merkley, said in a statement Wednesday.
The Senate's appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security has, less publicly, expressed similar concerns.
Merkley's office provided the 39-page budget document independently to The Washington Post. "Other Democrats joined in the criticism, including Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia), who serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform". Merkley, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told Maddow that the document he released was "the notification document that would have come to the Appropriations Committee, specifically to the chair of [the subcommittee on] Homeland Security". "My pledge to each of you is that my administration will not rest until you have the resources, the tools, and the authorities you need to do your job, and do it properly and do it strong", he said.
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