The Department of Homeland Security transferred $169 million from other agencies to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the detention and removal of migrants this year, according to a document sent to Congress by DHS.
Many of the transfers came from key national security programs, including $1.8 million from the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, $9.8 million from FEMA, $29 million from the U.S. Coast Guard and more than $34 million from several TSA programs. DHS also transferred $33 million from other ICE programs to pay for detention and removal, making the total amount of money transferred $202 million.
The timing of the news could be better for the Trump administration: as Hurricane Florence reaches the east coast, it’s hard not to wonder why officials transferred funds from FEMA and the Coast Guard – just as hurricane season was poised to begin – in order to pay for ICE’s efforts to detain and deport immigrants.
The argument from administration officials is that this may look bad, but there’s no cause for alarm because disaster-relief funding wasn’t touched. The Department of Homeland Security simply moved other funds around, but not in a way that would affect hurricane response.
There’s a reason that’s not an especially satisfying explanation.
The materials we obtained pointed specifically to the fact that some of the money transferred out of FEMA was designated for response and recovery programs, as well as preparedness and protection.
Moira Whelan, FEMA’s former chief of staff for the office of Gulf Coast rebuilding, told Rachel on the air that the transferred funds were slated to be used on “training for all hazards, preparing our warehouses, making sure we have things ready to go so that we can pre-deploy like you see FEMA doing now…. Taking money away from that operation doesn’t just harm [FEMA’s hurricane response], it harms us with any disaster we face.”
I’ve seen some questions about whether the transfers of funds were legal. Based on what we know, they were. The Trump administration notified Congress of the transfers earlier in the summer, and the relevant Republican lawmakers approved the shifts.
But that doesn’t make the policy any easier to defend.