Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

How prepared is FEMA for Hurricane Florence?

How prepared is FEMA for Hurricane Florence?

The Trump administration is under fire for appearing to transfer money from the country's top disaster response agency FEMA to fund immigrant detention.

The Homeland Security Department is pushing back against a Democratic U.S. senator's claim that the Trump administration transferred almost $10 million from the government's disaster relief agency to immigration enforcement.

The Post reported that ICE officials said in their funding request that they expect to deport more than 253,000 immigrants in the next fiscal year, which would be the highest target for the agency since 2014.

As a potentially catastrophic hurricane bears down on the East Coast of the United States, the shifting of $10 million from FEMA's operating budget to fund immigration detention and deportations is drawing condemnation from Democrats.

Merkely said he believes the budgeting reallocation happened in response to the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy, which was rolled out earlier this year. "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".

Both agencies belong to the Department of Homeland Security. "DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs".

Merkley first gave the documents to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who ran a story on the transfers Tuesday evening.

The DHS documents released by Merkley give this justification for the money reprogramming: "Without the transfers and reprogramming identified in this notification, ICE will not be able to fulfill its adult detention requirements in FY 2018".

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Houlton added that money transferred from FEMA could not have been used to pay for hurricane relief efforts because of "appropriation limitations".

Florence is forecast to hit the Carolinas as a Category 4 hurricane later this week, one of the strongest storms to strike the area in almost 30 years. That's right. And I think it's really important to note that while the request that you're talking about is $200 million, this scheme of overspending and transferring funds into the account and then using that new, elevated level as the baseline for the next round, the sort of double-ratchet per fiscal year, has allowed them to move a billion extra dollars into the account over the course of the last three years.

In a briefing Wednesday, a FEMA response and recovery official told reporters the agency has "plenty of resources" to respond to to the storm, now approaching the Carolinas and Georgia.

The Department of Homeland Security did not deny the transfers are legitimate to Bustle, but a spokesperson did downplay their significance with regards to FEMA's budget, and especially its disaster response funds. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said in an interview Wednesday.

'I believe this movement of funds was within the flexibility the administration has, ' Merkley noted.

A senior administration official confirmed to CNN on Thursday that there is an ongoing Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigation that includes FEMA administrator Brock Long.

The revelation, just ahead of Hurricane Florence's expected landfall in North and SC, was found by Sen. Almost 3,000 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. He also used the occasion to trumpet as an "incredible, unsung success" his administration's response to Hurricane Maria, which caused almost 3,000 deaths on Puerto Rico, a USA territory already badly damaged by Hurricane Irma weeks earlier.

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