Sen. Jeff Merkley: Trump Shorting Disaster Funding To Pay For Immigrant Detention

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"This is a scandal", Merkley said in a statement.

Merkley also said that he hoped "for the sake of all Americans who are impacted" that FEMA is prepared for the effects of Hurricane Florence.

"This is not going to be a storm we recover from in days", Byard said at FEMA's headquarters in Washington.

However, the documents say the shifts come out of FEMA accounts that include such categories as "Response and Recovery" and "Mission Support". His office has shared the file with NPR. FEMA and nine other agencies under the Department of Homeland Security had approximately 1% taken from their budgets to be put toward ICE's detention facilities.

To cover the shortfall, DHS "reprogrammed" its financial resources, which is permitted under budget rules.

The money taken from FEMA was part of a total $201 million transfer from different parts of DHS to ICE, to pay for the detention and removal of undocumented immigrants. He appeared on MSNBC to discuss the transfer. Small's organization provided Merkley with the DHS document.

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"FEMA will curtail training, travel, public engagement sessions, IT security support and infrastructure maintenance, and IT investments in the legacy grants systems for transition to the Grants Management Modernization Program", the document reads. "ICE could also be forced to reduce its current interior enforcement operations". ICE is an agency within that department, as is FEMA.

The top Democratic senator on the Appropriations Committee, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, blasted the transfer of funds Wednesday, saying "our eastern coast is left even more vulnerable" as a result.

News that the Trump administration moved funds out of the agency tasked with coordinating the federal government's disaster response efforts comes as the administration is scrambling to prepare for Hurricane Florence, which has been described as "one of the strongest hurricanes to churn toward the eastern seaboard in decades". "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 said in a tweet.

"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", he said.

But FEMA says the $10 million was not meant to go to disaster relief and represents an extremely small percentage of what is actually being spent on hurricane recovery.

Ray Zaccaro, Merkley's communications director, tells NPR the administration's response has been "defensive and completely fallacious".

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Meanwhile, immigration advocates are concerned not just about where the money came from, but where it went.

But Merkley did concede that the transfer of funds was legal. A source at DHS told Pegues the funds were transferred to ICE for adult detention beds, not to house children. But in the past, Congress has criticized ICE's mismanagement of money. 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.

Similar language is popping up in this year's appropriations bills.

A report issued in June by the Republican subcommittee chair, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia were the sole decisionmakers.

CBS News' Jeff Pegues reported that the money in question was transferred back in August to ICE.

Officials said that without the additional funds, they may have to suspend deportations and arrests for people who are deemed "threats to public safety", according to The Post.

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