$155 Million Moved From FEMA Disaster Relief For Immigration Enforcement. The Trump administration has planned to move at least $155 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund in order to support its policy of returning some migrants to Mexico. According to documents obtained by CNN, the Department of Homeland has recently informed Congress of its decision to reprogram and transfer $272 million in total to its immigration enforcement agency from elsewhere in the Department which include, the FEMA money.
$155 Million Moved From FEMA Disaster Relief For Immigration Enforcement
The administration made an announcement last week of its intention to hold migrant families indefinitely, aimed at scrapping a settlement that put a 20-day limit on family detention. Meanwhile, according to a DHS official, DHS has notified Congress of its intention to reprogram and transfer funds from agencies over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS’ enforcement arm, on July 26. The department plans to transfer about $116 million for ICE detention beds, as well as transportation and deportation, the official added. The department will not pull funds for the purpose of detention beds from the US Secret Service, the Office of the Inspector General, and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
“In this case, this is a must-pay bill that needed to be addressed. We would not say that this is with no risk, it was done in ways to minimize the risk to agencies that are losing funding,” said the official.
FEMA said in a statement to CNN, “This transfer of funds to support the border emergency will leave a remaining balance of $447 million in the DRF (Disaster Relief Fund) Base account. Based on DHS and FEMA’s review of historical emergency spending from the DRF Base account, this amount will be sufficient to support operational needs and will not impact ongoing long-term recovery efforts across the country. The DRF Majors account, which provides funding for ongoing recovery efforts, including those supporting communities impacted by the 2017 disasters, has a current balance of approximately $27 billion and is not impacted by the reprogramming.”
It’s not unheard of for departments, DHS in particular to reprogram funds. Previously, DHS has reprogrammed funds for detention beds, for example. The reprogramming of money to Immigration and Customs Enforcement is sure to receive pushback from Democratic lawmakers who’ve criticized the agency.
In a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, Democratic Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, chair of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, opposed the reprogramming of funds, saying she had “significant concerns about the intended use of funds” and the shifting of funds from other components.
House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson said in a statement that, “the administration is flouting the law and Congressional intent to fund its extremist indefinite detention immigration policies. “Taking away money from TSA and from FEMA in the middle of hurricane season could have deadly consequences. Congress needs to work very hard to undo the damage this Administration is continually doing to our homeland security infrastructure,” the Mississippi Democrat added.
DHS plans to transfer $23.8 million from the Transportation Security Administration for immigration enforcement, according to a document obtained by CNN.
Earlier this year, funds for additional detention beds — as the administration has repeatedly pushed for — became a sticking point in appropriations negotiations.
Democrats have argued that if ICE is allowed to up the number of detention beds, then the agency would have full capacity to pursue a very large population of undocumented immigrants as well as those without criminal records. But Republicans view it in another perspective, saying that the number of detention beds as central to limiting the release of detained undocumented immigrants into the United States as they await hearings.
In the end, the spending bill included funding for an average 45,274 detention beds per day, with the intent to return to 40,520 by the end of the fiscal year, which happens to be the level funded in the last fiscal year, but short of 52,000 detention beds as against what the administration requested. ICE’s bed count will be roughly 50,000 with the reprogramming of funds.
In recent months, however, the agency has been consistently holding more people in detention: As of August 10, 55,530 people were in immigration detention, according to the agency.
Last year, the department was also sharply criticized for shifting around $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s operating budget to fund immigration detention and deportations. Last summer, the administration however, quietly redirected $200 million from multiple parts of DHS to ICE, according to a congressional document released last fall. The latest shift in funds will also pull more money from FEMA — $3.4 million for detention efforts. In addition, $4.3 million will also be transferred from DHS’ cyber agency.
DHS resources have been stretched thin amid an influx of migrants at the southern border. So far this fiscal year, more than 760,000 migrants have been arrested for crossing the border illegally. Many of them turn themselves in to agents.
In May, the Trump administration asked Congress for $4.5 billion in emergency funding. The request included additional detention beds. That part of the request was not fulfilled.