DHS Transferred $10M From FEMA to ICE Ahead of Hurricane Florence - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

In a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” scenario, the U.S. government transferred $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to Immigration and Customs Enforcement – and the move has prompted FEMA to cut back on training, IT security and infrastructure investments.

Part of the reason is that the Department of Homeland Security, which runs both FEMA and ICE, told Congress it needed at least $200 million more than what they were currently budgeted for in order to cover the costs of detaining and deporting more people. In a statement, DHS wrote that FEMA “will curtail training, travel, public engagement sessions, IT security support and infrastructure maintenance” and that without the transfer, “ICE will not be able to deport those who have violated immigration laws. ICE could also be forced to reduce its current interior enforcement operations.”

The document showing the transfer was released by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. in mid-September. Merkley appeared on MSNBC to discuss the transfer.

However, DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton said that the funds did not come from disaster relief funding.

Ray Zaccaro, Merkley’s communications director, wrote, “This comment from FEMA’s spokesperson is as factual as the president’s assertion that Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria was ‘incredibly successful’ and ‘one of the best jobs that’s ever been done.”

And Moira Whelan, a former DHS official, said that Houlton is simply “parsing words.” FEMA’s money, outside its Disaster Relief Fund, is still used to prepare for disasters and improve responses.

Republican subcommittee chairwoman Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., issued a report that described Congress’s “persistent and growing concerns about ICE’s lack of fiscal discipline.” Her report also stated, “The Committee strongly discourages transfer or reprogramming requests to cover ICE’s excesses” and that future requests should provide evidence that the agency needs money because of circumstances beyond its control.

What Do You Think?

Do you think it’s okay to transfer money between agencies without congressional approval? Do you agree with DHS’s decision to take money from FEMA and feed it into ICE? I’d love to hear your opinion, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino