It's not just FEMA: ICE quietly got an extra $200 million

Elias Hubbard
September 14, 2018

The Trump administration took almost $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's budget this summer to help boost U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to budget documents shared with USA TODAY.

"We have plenty of resources, both monetary, staff and commodities, to respond to the storm", Jeff Byard, FEMA's associate administrator for the Office and Response and Recovery, told reporters during a morning briefing as Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolina coast.

Former DHS and FEMA officials, however, disputed the spokesman's claim that the money in question was distinct from "hurricane response", saying these funds were critical to the agency's overall mission of storm preparedness and response, even if they were not explicitly earmarked for disaster relief.

It is not uncommon for cabinet-level agencies to swap money, but FEMA's budget was thrown into disarray by the number of hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters in 2017.

The Oregon Democrat showed budget documents about the fund transfer Tuesday on the "Rachel Maddow Show". FEMA has an account with US$25 billion that is to be used for disaster response and recovery, according to DHS. An estimated almost 3,000 Puerto Ricans died in the wake of Hurricane Maria a year ago and many - including the San Juan mayor - have been critical of what they call a lackluster and underwhelming response to the devastation.

Of the $200 million, the document says $93 million will go to immigrant detention, a 3% budget increase that will fund capacity for an additional 2,300 detainees; and $107 million for "transportation and removal", or deportations, a 29% budget increase.

The transfer was approved by the Republican chairs of the House and Senate Homeland Security appropriations subcommittees, but not by the rest of the subcommittees' members.

Politico, citing three people familiar with the situation, reports that Long used the cars during commutes from his home in North Carolina to Washington and the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general report is now looking into whether or not taxpayer funds had footed Long's bill for travel.

Other Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees FEMA, also weighed in on the matter.

"The lack of fiscal discipline and cavalier management of funding for detention operations, evidenced by inaccurate budget formulation and uneven execution, seems to be the result of a perception that ERO is funded by an indefinite appropriation", the statement said. But in the past, Congress has criticized ICE's mismanagement of money.

"I would dispute the statement that this has no bearing on. addressing the challenges from hurricanes", Merkley said.

They also said they need the money to deal with rising costs related to arrests and deportations. Future requests should include "transparent and publically-available evidence" that the money is required because of "circumstances. that are truly beyond ICE's control", the senators said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER