The Trump administration diverted $10 million from FEMA to support ICE, documents show

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femaAssociated Press/Carlos GiustiIn this Oct. 5, 2017 file photo, Department of Homeland Security personnel deliver supplies to Santa Ana community residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico.

  • The Trump administration diverted nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fund immigration detention centers, documents show.
  • The news comes as a Category 4 hurricane barrels toward the Carolinas, and President Donald Trump continues to defend his widely criticized response to last year's hurricanes in Puerto Rico.
  • A Homeland Security spokesman said the money transferred from FEMA wasn't taken from its disaster relief funds due to "appropriation limitations."


The Trump administration transferred nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fund immigration detention centers just ahead of hurricane season, according to documents a Democratic senator provided to news outlets.

Budgeting documents from the Department of Homeland Security lists a $9.8 million transfer from FEMA's operations and support budget, which was given to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The sum makes up roughly 0.9% of FEMA's overall budget.

The documents list similar transfers to ICE from the Transportation Security Administration and the US Coast Guard, and even show a $23 million transfer from the Customs and Border Protection agency's border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology budget.

In total, DHS transferred $201.88 million in funding to ICE detention facilities, the documents show.

"ICE must have sufficient detention bed capacity to detain illegal aliens when necessary as it enforces the Nation's immigration laws as fairly and effectively as possible," the budgeting documents say. "Ensuring adequate funding for the detention beds requires projecting an Average Daily Population (ADP) for adult detainees as well as the daily costs incurred in keeping a detainee in custody."

hurricane florenceNOAA via APThis Sept. 10, 2018, GOES East satellite image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence as it threatens the U.S. East Coast. As mandatory evacuations begin for parts of several East Coast states, millions of Americans have been preparing for what could become one of the most catastrophic hurricanes to hit the Eastern Seaboard in decades.

Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon provided the documents first to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. In an interview on Maddow's show Tuesday night, Merkley accused the Trump administration of taking money from FEMA's "response and recovery" operations just as a Category 4 hurricane barrels toward the Carolinas.

A Homeland Security spokesman said via Twitter that the transferred money was not taken from disaster relief funds, and accused Merkley of pushing a political agenda amid Hurricane Florence's impending landfall.

"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," spokesman Tyler Houlton said. "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."

The news comes as the Trump administration continues to face scrutiny over its handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday called his government's response to the hurricane an "incredible, unsung success," and tweeted Wednesday that the "great job" was done in spite of "an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan."

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