- By Ron Nixon The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security transferred nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a budget document released by a Democratic senator late Wednesday night, diverting funds from the relief agency just as a major hurricane barrels toward the East Coast.
The document, which was released by the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, shows that the money would come from FEMA’s operations and support budget and was transferred into accounts at ICE to pay for detention and removal operations. The document also shows that the Department of Homeland Security transferred money from accounts at Customs and Border Protection that pays for border fencing and technology.
Merkley, appearing Tuesday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC, said the Trump administration was taking money from FEMA’S “response and recovery” and “working hard to find funds for additional detention camps.” Merkley has been a vocal critic of the administration’s immigration policies.
The Department of Homeland Security denies that any money transferred came from FEMA’s disasters relief accounts, which pay for work related to hurricanes and other natural disasters.
“Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts,” Tyler Q. Houlton, an agency spokesman, said on Twitter. “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.”
Houlton added that money transferred from FEMA could not have been used to pay for hurricane relief efforts because of “appropriation limitations.”
“DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs,” he said.
The agency said it is prepared for Hurricane Florence, which is expected to hit North and South Carolina, and Virginia on Thursday or Friday. FEMA officials said the hurricane could be the strongest storm to hit the Carolinas and Virginia region “in decades.”