Things That Matter

Trump Administration Transferred Nearly $10 Million From FEMA To ICE For Detention Programs

The Trump administration took nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) budget this summer to help the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to a budget report released last week. The document sent to Congress and released by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, shows that FEMA cut funding on training, IT security and infrastructure investments. It also reveals that FEMA’s operations and support budget was transferred into accounts at ICE to pay for detention and removal operations as well as border fencing and technology.

A 39-page budget document shows that the Department of Homeland Security requested about $9.8 million be transferred from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Senator Merkley, appearing on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” said the Trump administration was taking money from FEMA’s “response and recovery” and “working hard to find funds for additional detention camps.”

Merkely said he was made aware of FEMA’s budget cuts while looking into a solution for family separation and the detention centers set up along the border. He said the document makes it clear ICE is using money from FEMA “to build more detention centers.” Merkely believes the budgeting reallocation happened in response to the administration’s zero-tolerance policy. The policy has led to thousands of families being separated and housed in detention centers, which he says may have increased the need for more money in ICE’s budget.

While the money transfer from FEMA to ICE is less than 1 percent of FEMA’s overall budget, the document does confirm that the money would be spent on ICE’s detention facilities.

The DHS, which includes both FEMA and ICE, told Congress that ICE needed $200 million to cover the costs of detaining and deporting more migrants than the agency expected. To cover the deficit, DHS “reprogrammed” its financial resources, which is allowed under budget rules. Because of the loss of the $9.75 million, FEMA “will curtail training, travel, public engagement sessions, IT security support and infrastructure maintenance,” the DHS writes. Without the money transfer, the document says “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.”

FEMA has acknowledged that funds were redirected but said the transfer hasn’t jeopardized relief efforts.

FEMA’s budget was decimated last year due to the barrage of storms and fires that affected the nation and the agency was criticized heavily for its handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

The DHS denies any money transferred came from FEMA’s disasters relief accounts, which pay for work related to hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts,” Tyler Q. Houlton, an agency spokesman, said on Twitter. “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 report comes as the President is denying the number of casualties caused by Hurricane Maria last fall.

President Trump is defended his administration’s response to the devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico last year, arguing new findings that Hurricane Maria killed far more people than initially believed. It’s the latest defense since Trump claimed that the federal response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was an “unsung success.”

According to the independent analysis commissioned by the governor of Puerto Rico, an estimated 2,975 more deaths than normal were recorded on the island from September 2017 to February 2018. The government’s first estimate was 64 deaths as a result of the hurricane. These numbers have left people wondering if similar results will happen again especially with the release of this document showing less funding for FEMA.

Many are questioning the transfer of money from FEMA to ICE, especially as Hurricane Florence hits the east coast.

Ray Zaccaro, Senator Merkley’s communications director, told NPR the administration’s response to the document has been indefensible.

“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.'” Zaccaro said.

The release of the documents come as Hurricane Florence emptied homes and hospitals in both South and North Carolina. Sixteen people have died in Hurricane Florence so far and hundreds of thousands of people remain without power as the storm drops a lot of rain on the region.


READ: Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria Death Toll Is Now Close To 3,000 People Instead Of The 64 People Originally Reported

Share this story by tapping that share button below!

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

The New Mel Gibson Movie Is The ‘Tone-Deaf’ Portrayal Of A Puerto Rico Hurricane We Did Not Ask For

Entertainment

The New Mel Gibson Movie Is The ‘Tone-Deaf’ Portrayal Of A Puerto Rico Hurricane We Did Not Ask For

Lionsgate

We’ll need to take a trip down memory lane for this one.

In the late 2000s to early 2010s, Mel Gibson’s career was tanking thanks to a series of controversies that were related to his homophobic, racist, and antisemitic outbursts.

In 2006, the Oscar-winning actor had been convicted of drunk driving and it had been reported that during the arrest he unleashed a “barrage of anti-Semitic remarks.” During his arrest, he accused Jewish people of being “responsible for all the wars in the world.” In July 2010, a leaked phone call between Gibson and his then-partner Oksana Grigorieva had revealed that he’d suggested that if she got “raped by a pack of n******”, it would be her fault. At the time, Gibson was barred from coming near Grigorieva or their daughter due to a domestic violence-related restraining order.

And yet, in 2020, it seems all is forgiven and Lionsgate has so wiped the racist, homophobic, and sexually abusive comments from their memory that they decided to crown him a hero.

Gibson is set to star in a heist film featuring minorities as criminals and himself as the white savior.

Recently it was announced that Mel Gibson will star in a film that features a hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico. “Force of Nature” stars Gibson as a “retired officer refusing to leave his apartment even as a category-five hurricane begins to hit Puerto Rico.” The twist? Gibson’s character is out to stop a group of local men planning to steal $55m during the catastrophe.

Seems kind of right up the alley of Alt-right men…

Soon after the trailer dropped users on Twitter were quick to slam its premise calling it “tone-deaf” and disrespectful.”

While the new film doesn’t reference the devastation of Hurricane Maria specifically, many were offended by the decision of the production company, Lionsgate, behind the film to produce it in Puerto Rico and make the islanders the villains in poor taste.

“It’s outright disrespectful to the people who went through the traumatic experience that was Hurricane Maria, for Mel Gibson and any Hollywood company to come to Puerto Rico and make a movie where the islanders are the bad guys, and he and the white people are the good guys,” one user tweeted in response to the film.

“So I just saw that Mel Gibson is trending and why… ” another user tweeted. “Dude, if you’re going to do a movie about PR being hit by Cat. 5 hurricane, could actually make it something meaningful, revolving around Boricuas that had to suffer through that kind of disaster, and not whatever this shit is?”

Many were quick to describe the film as exploitive.

Even if the film wasn’t exploitive, it is, it’s certainly a completely tone-deaf mess.

Check it out now.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Trump Administration Slashes Funding For Puerto Rico’s Medicare Funding When They Need It Most

Things That Matter

Trump Administration Slashes Funding For Puerto Rico’s Medicare Funding When They Need It Most

Unsplash

The long-standing feud between President Trump and Puerto Rico has been well-documented. Whether it’s been Trump calling the island “one of the most corrupt places on Earth” or labeling it’s politicians as “incompetent” altogether, this past weekend is just the latest chapter in this dispute. 

President Trump reportedly slashed billions of dollars worth of Medicaid funding that the federal government was preparing to allocate to the U.S. territory. According to Politico, Trump personally intervened with a new $1.4 trillion spending package, which was unveiled by lawmakers this week, that would have given Puerto Rico $12 billion over four years. Instead, the new plan will only allocate up to $5.7 billion in Medicaid funds for the island over the span of two years. 

The change in allocated money is a reversal from the originally agreed-upon sum that both Republican and Democratic leaders on two key congressional committees, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. This came after months of negotiating a figuring out a “long-term financial path” that would have helped Puerto Rico. 

While both Democrat and Republican lawmakers had come to an agreement on the spending bill, President Trump thought that amount was “too much.”

Three sources told Politico that the president didn’t back the first agreed upon deal because Trump believed that the $12 billion awarded “was too much and pushed to reduce the total amount.” Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers had to then revise the amount being given due to prevent a government shutdown at the end of this week.

For Puerto Rico, things haven’t been easy this year as the island has leaned on short term funding extensions since the fall. This is due to it facing a fiscal cliff, a short-term money boost, back on Sept. 30 that would be expiring shortly after. The latest series of funding installments are set to expire this week. 

This funding blow follows the tough times since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017 where over 3,000 people were killed and countless homes were destroyed. The hurricane only added more challenges in its negotiations to secure funding for a longer-term agreement for its Medicaid program. According to Politico, the funding “covers roughly 1.4 million low-income people.” In addition, the island has seen economic upheaval and political corruptness, an issue that lawmakers have tried to address by placing stronger measures to prevent inappropriate spending from public officials in Puerto Rico. 

Per Politico, the funding slash was labeled as “a win for President Trump and the American people,” a White House spokesperson said. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, a frequent Trump critic, didn’t see it that way. 

“This administration remains committed to properly prioritizing U.S. taxpayer dollars,” Chase Jennings, a spokesperson for the White House Office of Management and Budget, told the news outlet. “With the historical waste we have faced in Puerto Rico, additional funding was not needed or fiscally responsible.”

Even some Puerto Rico officials lauded the spending bill that passed, praising the two-year extension of funding that was given. Jennifer Storipan, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, whose role is the main liaison between island officials and the federal government, said that the U.S. territory will only move forward with negotiations to secure long-term funding. 

“We will continue to work hand-in-hand with the federal government to achieve a longer-term funding mechanism that provides stable healthcare to the people of Puerto Rico,” Storpan said. 

Not all of Puerto Rico officials were on board with President Trump’s last-minute funding slash. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has previously sparred with Trump, wrote on Twitter that “Trump always discriminates against Puerto Ricans. That is why it is inconceivable that there are still Republican politicians in Puerto Rico who support it.

While Puerto Rico will still be receiving a two-year extension when it comes to Medicaid funding, there is still looming uncertainty in the long run when it comes to health coverage for low-income residents.   

While the spending package would provide additional stability to Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program for the next two years, negotiations for additional funding would have to be jump-started again in three years. This has some people worried since the federal government treats the island’s Medicaid program differently because it’s considered a territory, not a state.

Instead, Puerto Rico receives a fixed grant instead of open-ended federal funding which has some like Robert Greenstein, who works with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank, worried about the long term implications. 

“With another funding cliff looming in two years under the new agreement, Puerto Rico may continue to lack the certainty it needs to commit to long-term increases of its very low payment rates to health care providers to stem their alarming exodus to the mainland, to provide coverage for such key health treatments as drugs to treat Hepatitis C, and to cover more poor, uninsured residents.”

READ: House Democrats Are Demanding Answers About Why The Government Is Withholding Aid For Puerto Rico

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com